INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is temporarily expanding its Next Level Jobs program through Dec. 30 to include more job seekers and employers, northeast Indiana lawmakers say.

Indiana is directing nearly $40 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to expand the program's eligibility, offerings and funding caps for Workforce Ready Grants and Employer Training Grants.

Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola, who supported the 2017 law establishing the Next Level Jobs program, said the new funding opens doors for more Hoosiers, especially those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic has had many unintended consequences for working Hoosiers, from having their hours cut to being unemployed," Zent said. "The Next Level Jobs program opens up opportunities through tuition-free training so those looking to invest in themselves during this difficult time can find a rewarding career and start moving forward."

More than $20 million of the CARES Act funding will allow a minimum of 10,000 additional Hoosiers to utilize the Workforce Ready Grant as the program temporarily expands:

• Hoosiers with two- and four-year degrees are temporarily eligible to receive full tuition reimbursement for short-term Workforce Ready Grant-eligible programs through Dec. 30;

• Nearly 50 new certificates are temporarily added to the list of eligible programs, including Certified Nursing Assistant, Commercial Driver’s License, Phlebotomy and CNC Machining certifications; and

• The individual funding cap is raised from $5,500 to $10,000 to cover high-quality programs.

"This program offers employees many opportunities in high-growth and high-income fields," said Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City. "For employers, it's a way to skill up their personnel, and the process to apply is simple. I would encourage all businesses to take a look and see if it would be beneficial."

In addition, the Employer Training Grant, administered by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, will be temporarily expanded to support more businesses that train new employees, and upskill or reskill workers. The maximum amount of funding available to an employer increased from $50,000 to $100,000, and $5 million will specifically support minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses.

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said Hoosiers can find out more by visiting NextLevelJobs.org.

"Since it's inception, the Next Level Jobs program has been a game changer in many Hoosiers' lives," Smaltz said. "Employers and employees alike are using this initiative and everything it offers simply because it works."

The Workforce Ready Grant has enrolled over 25,000 people in high-demand, tuition-free certificate programs, with more than 13,300 Hoosiers completing a Workforce Ready eligible certificate program. Individuals who have completed a certificate program have seen an average wage increase of $6,400 a year. The Employer Training Grant has served more than 530 employers and trained nearly 9,000 employees.
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