Finding Relief In Leveraging Relief Benefits Amid America’s Covid-19 Recovery

By Andrea Adkins-Hutchins, Thomas P. Miller & Associates (TPMA)

As America steadily acclimates herself with the new Biden administration, a certain grace period has allowed for some changes in the system to prioritize facets such as relief support for entrepreneurs and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in re-employment. Thomas P. Miller & Associate’s laywer Andrea Adkins-Hutchins gives detailed insights on what to expect with Biden’s support systems in lieu of the pandemic, as well as how best to find opportunity even in a crisis.

Question: The CARES Act and the Biden Administration’s sweeping relief package seeks to bring America’s workforce to full repopulation – But what will repopulation look like? How can we ensure best diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices in re-employment?

We must first recognize the uniquely historic dilemma which we find ourselves in – We have millions of individuals who have been left behind as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one afflicting certain populations more so than others. 

We know for sure that people of color, women, rural populations, and others will require purposeful and targeted, full-service solutions from government resources. At the same time, we also have employers desperate for talent, as we face significant talent shortages. 

We need to connect the two demands. However, that connection won’t happen without planning and intentionality.  

Some of the issues that communities from myriad walks of life are facing are going to be harder to overcome than just throwing money at the problem, despite the political goodwill behind it. Many communities don’t necessarily have economic development staff on hand to represent their interest, limiting factors that even a big tranche of money can’t necessarily help to overcome. 

You need to have people to help direct that money in the right place and that includes addressing the impetus of revitalizing workforce retention and recruitment practices to find equitable pathways to prosperity.

Q: How can we support U.S. rural-based entrepreneurs and small businesses amidst this period of COVID-19 recovery?

We need to meet them where they are – We need to assess the scenarios that each demographic, if you will, find themselves in and craft unique strategies that address the needs of those who are disadvantaged and left behind. 

Our recently launched survey, ‘Prosperity Through Equity’, aims to identify the core issues at the heart of both rural development and rural recovery. We hope its data is useful as a bellwether starting point to re-center 2021 American conversations around rural recovery.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model to rural recovery. While in certain cases, similarities might include a less diversified economy, a higher share of workers at essential jobs, and a larger digital divide than contrasted with urban communities, many of these problems have existed before COVID-19. 

Solutions need to be brokered alongside each community and not for them, as a monolith. The granular nature of our Survey will offer a more explicitly specific call to action to the benefit of policymakers and the US private sector alike

Q: Tell our readers about America’s ‘opportunity zones’; how are they formed and how does Thomas P. Miller & Associates provide counsel in their development?

Opportunity Zones (OZs) are unique tools that represent new and creative ways to help communities, individuals, and businesses located inprimarily distressed census tracts of the United States. There are 8,700 in the US to-date. These zones, given their designation as “distressed,” will often have to position themselves strategically to stand out and attract in

This is where we come in; TPMA spearheads alongside our partners community leadership development initiatives, the actual identification of initial investments for these opportunity zones, the structuring of long-term deal flow pipelines while ensuring that ‘OZ funding’ throughout is accountable and aligns directly with community objectives.

It is important for those communities to focus on both immediate and long-term needs. This is why we also aid in developing prospectuses. 

Without a well-thought-out plan, marketing tools, and targeted policies, Opportunity Zones will likely not bring much investment. On the other hand, those communities that weave them into a larger plan and strategy will see a tremendous return on investment (ROI).

Q: Many contend that the United States “doesn’t make things anymore”. Tell us about the impetus behind ‘Building Back Better’, adding more manufacturing jobs and to reinvigorate STEM education against the constraints of COVID-19….?

The emergence of technology pre-COVID has intensified and accelerated opportunities that would have taken years to evolve. States and communities now need to recognize this technology acceleration and converge the making of products and solutions with ideas. 

Over the past few years, we have begun to see states and communities adopt manufacturing technology-driven solutions alongside necessary tax credit programs. 

Another trend that is gaining popularity post-pandemic would be higher-skill, STEM-oriented apprenticeship programs. Communities are connecting K-12 programs as a pipeline to future employment. 

The states and regions who are able to spontaneously combust those ideas and forge plans of action will so too succeed and we are delighted to serve as a partner in their success. 

Thomas P. Miller & Associates (TPMA) is a national consulting firm that works at the intersection of workforce development, economic development, education, and community impact across the United States. Since 1989, TPMA has worked in over 40 states and secured more than $283 million for its clients.

About the Interviewee

Andrea Adkins-Hutchins

Andrea Adkins-Hutchins serves as Vice President of Economic Development, Communications and Community Resiliency at Thomas P. Miller & Associates (TPMA), a leading Workforce Development Advisory Consultancy headquartered in the United States.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.