The Department of Social and Health Services received a federal grant of nearly $890,000 to provide work-based job training for low-income, unemployed older Washingtonians, according to a DSHS release. This grant will help prepare hundreds of older adults in Washington state for a post-COVID-19 economy.

DSHS will use the money to provide remote training opportunities and job preparation and coaching, according to the release. Training will focus on gaining and retaining employment, digital literacy and technical training skills to prepare participants to return to the workforce.

“In addition to bearing the brunt of this public health crisis, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been dire for many older Washingtonians,” DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange said in a news release. “This grant will provide some with the training and skills they need to get back on their feet.”

The COVID-19 emergency has significantly altered the economic environment in unpredictable ways. This employment program will prepare participants to move into and retain unsubsidized employment over the next 30 months of this grant, according to the release.

“COVID has had a disproportionate impact on older adults,” said Bea Rector, director of the Home and Community Services division within DSHS’s Aging and Long-Term Support Administration. “It is our mission to improve the lives of older adults through innovation, and with this program we can do that by helping them gain new skills so they can find rewarding work and reduce the economic impact and social isolation caused by the pandemic.”

The funds will be used to build and retain staff to provide new training and support services and to provide technology to qualifying older adults. In addition to job training and coaching, some participants could obtain internships or externships with employers in the community.

DSHS was one of seven organizations around the country to receive grants from the U.S. Department of Labor to support employment services for older adults seeking to rejoin the workforce. The funds were allocated as part of the Senior Community Service Employment Program.