Benchmarks of Success Issue 46, May 2023: Recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 46,  May 2023

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From L to R: MD Labor Sec. Portia Wu, MD DHCD Sec. Jake Day, Delegate Brooke Grossman, MD DOD Sec. Carol Beatty

Maryland Homelessness and Workforce Systems Symposium

On April 28, the Maryland Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), in partnership with the Departments of Labor (Labor) and Housing and Community Development (DHCD) convened 150 stakeholders representing the homeless services and workforce system for a first-of-its-kind event.

Homelessness and housing insecurity are often compounded by a variety of factors, making them nearly impossible to address alone. That is why workforce strategies must be closely coordinated with the services of a variety of other partners to effectively serve these populations.

The Maryland Homelessness and Workforce Systems Symposium drew representatives from local workforce areas, continuums of care, non-profits, and higher education for a day of information sharing, relationship building, and cross-systems learning. The tagline for the symposium, “Connecting Systems for Better Service,” highlighted the overarching goal to foster stronger connections between homeless services and workforce providers for the benefit of shared customers.

The symposium opened with remarks from Carol Beatty, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities (DOD) and outgoing ICH Chair. Following Secretary Beatty’s remarks, attendees heard from Peggy Bailey, Vice President for Housing and Income Security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ms. Bailey spoke of the interconnectedness of both systems, citing real-world examples of individuals who had to navigate the challenges of homelessness while also looking for employment. Attendees then heard from a panel of people with recent experience of homelessness, moderated by Ms. Bailey.

The afternoon featured a “Lunch with the Secretaries” during which Secretary Portia Wu and DHCD Secretary Jake Day spoke about their vision for collaboration and how each of their respective departments was responding to the issue of housing insecurity across the State. Delegate Brooke Grossman moderated the lunch session, drawing on her own personal experience of homelessness and work in the field to frame the conversation.

To conclude the event, attendees were seated together based on their county or region for a strategic planning session. Groups were asked to work collaboratively to discuss the challenges their regions currently face in serving individuals experiencing homelessness, and how they might address those challenges through enhanced partnerships.

A link to symposium’s website, including the full agenda, bios for the presenters, and resources, can be found here:

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Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan



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Success Story -

Maryland Business Uses Grant Funds to Support Employees Struggling with Homelessness


Ron and his wife had always worked, but the low-skilled, minimum wage jobs they were able to land kept them trapped in perpetual poverty. Things were finally starting to look up when Ron enrolled in a Registered Apprenticeship with Chaney Enterprises, a large east coast concrete manufacturer and building materials supplier headquartered in Gambrills, Maryland. He was glad to have a new, good job on a career path, but he and his spouse had fallen behind and were still struggling to make ends meet. Their paycheck-to-paycheck existence had never allowed them to save enough for the upfront costs required to rent an apartment, such as the security deposit, advanced monthly rent and utility deposits. They used their meager resources to secure extended stay motel rooms, and when they lacked even enough to pay for this shelter, they lived in their car – until Ron’s new employer found out about the situation.  

As it happened, Chaney Enterprises had an unusual resource to help Ron. The company had recently been awarded a grant through the Jobs that Build (JTB) Employer Fund. The Maryland Department of Labor (MD Labor) designed the JTB program, which utilized federal resources allocated to Maryland under the American Rescue Plan Act, to support businesses in implementing creative solutions to address barriers significantly hindering workforce participation and retention. The fund prioritizes employee support programs and payroll incentives as keys to increasing competitiveness to attract and retain the most qualified workers.

Ron’s new employer used part of the funding from the company's JTB grant award to move Ron and his wife into an apartment. Not only was the pressing issue of housing addressed, but Ron was now able to fully focus on completing his apprenticeship.

When management at Chaney Enterprises was asked why they elected to use the funding to address Ron’s housing challenges, they responded: "We know our employees are our most valuable asset. This funding provided a unique opportunity for us to look beyond the traditional role of an employer. Not only were we able to use this grant to help retain apprentices by supplying completion bonuses, but this gave us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to supply one of our apprentices with a career pathway and what he would need to be successful in it. At the same time, we are gaining a much-needed driver!”

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New Americans Corner

Recently, MD Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning (DWDAL) and Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) published the Language Access Plan Resource Guide to complement the 2022 DWDAL/DUI Language Access Plan. The Resource Guide highlights: Applicable laws, strategies to access language needs, best practices in working with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) customers and interpreters, detailed instruction of accessing the State’s contracted language assistance vendors, and available resources to aid in working with LEP customers.

Additionally, "Meet the Language Access Vendors" training was recently offered to frontline and managerial staff serving programs under Titles I, II, and II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Unemployment Insurance program. The training provided an overview of Language Line’s telephonic interpretation service and Ad Astra’s in-person interpretation service. The training also covered best practices in accessing Language Line’s telephonic interpretation services and Ad Astra’s in-person interpretation service and guidance on working with interpreters.


Workforce Partners

Maryland Department of Labor                                                                  Maryland Department of Human Services

Maryland State Department of Education                                                Governor's Workforce Development Board

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development                            Maryland Workforce Association

Did You Know...?

Maryland's Latest Workforce Development Updates                                                                                                                           

  • Mental Health Awareness Month - Tools for Caring -

    May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about those living with mental or behavioral health issues. Dedicating a month to highlight this important issue is a positive step towards expanding the public dialogue on this topic, but for frontline workforce system staff, mental health awareness is a mindset they bring to work every day.

    Workforce service providers witness at close range the psychological toll a job loss can have on an individual. Even when a customer’s old job was less than perfect, it was still more than just a way to make a living. Jobs create structure, provide a sense of purpose, and offer opportunities for social interaction. Jobs influence how people see themselves, and how they are seen by others. Workforce staff know that helping customers find positive strategies for dealing with the natural grief, anxiety, anger and/or depression associated with unemployment can have an outsized positive impact on the success of their reemployment campaign.

    To gain effective skills for supporting jobseekers who are experiencing mental health problems, numerous Maryland workforce system staff have completed an eight-hour Mental Health First Aid training. Participants in the training learn how to “respond with care and genuine support for an individual experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis.” For more information on this training, email

    Workforce staff also need to attend to their own mental wellbeing. Helping others can be supremely rewarding, but constantly providing support to others without having resources for personal renewal can drain reserves of empathy, resulting in “compassion fatigue.” To help workforce staff avoid this fate, some local workforce areas, such as Frederick County and Western MD, offer their staff Professional Resilience training. Participants are taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and are introduced to tools and practices that can help them effectively manage stress.

    In a field where frontline staff are working every day with customers in high stress situations, it’s good to know training is available that will prepare them to provide customers with more holistic services that reach beyond their reemployment needs. And it’s always good to remember that we can’t help others if we don’t take good care of ourselves!

  • The  Intersection of Mental Health and Employment Services for Individuals with Disabilities

    The issue of mental health intersects with the activities of the workforce system in many ways – some you might not have considered. You probably already know that the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) is the state workforce system program responsible for providing employment services to eligible individuals with disabilities. But did you know that DORS serves individuals whose disability is mental illness? DORS served over 18,000 consumers in Program Year 2021. Of that total, mental illness was identified as the primary disability for over 2,500, and a secondary disability for another 4,500+.

  • Maryland Celebrates National Teacher Appreciation Week - 

    The Office of Adult Education and Literacy Services within the MD Labor’s DWDAL had something important to celebrate during the second week in May - National Teacher Appreciation Week!

    WIOA Title II provides funding to support community-based instruction in adult basic education and literacy and English language acquisition. Here in Maryland, there are currently over 1,100 teachers working in every corner of the state to reach adult learners with education and literacy services. These compassionate, multi-skilled teachers cover a lot of ground. While one adult education teacher might be helping their students gain reading, math, and digital proficiency skills, another may be preparing students to earn high school diplomas. Still another might be working with students to build their English language skills to improve their integration into their communities.

    In every case, these teachers are transforming lives by helping students improve their employment and earnings potential. National Teacher Appreciation Week is a great opportunity to recognize the powerful contribution Maryland teachers are making to ensure no Marylander is left behind!

  • Workforce Solutions to Address Homelessness - 

    Since 2014, Maryland’s Interagency Council on Homelessness has focused on examining statewide initiatives and recommending policy solutions to end homelessness in the state. To build on the ICH recommendation to blend housing services with workforce development strategies, the Department of Housing and Community Development partnered with MD Labor to release the Workforce Solutions to Address Homelessness Competitive Grant Solicitation in February of 2022. The goal of the initiative is to establish partnerships across systems to align and coordinate the delivery of employment and related services for individuals at-risk-of or currently experiencing homelessness.

    Five organizations have received grants under the program, including:

    • Allegany College – serving Allegany and Garrett counties
    • The Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development – serving Baltimore County
    • LifeStyles of Maryland – serving Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s counties
    • The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training – serving Baltimore City
    • Horizon Goodwill Industries – serving Washington and Allegany counties

    Each grantee’s program is unique. If you are working with customers who could be eligible for and benefit from this program and also live in one of the service areas, contact Special Grants Program Manager Casey Tiefenwerth for more information.

  • Happy Memorial Day 2023 -  

    Memorial Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Organizations across the country, like the USO (United States Organizations) and the Wounded Warrior Project, provide vital support to those who have served and their loved ones.

    To ensure the country’s veterans have the support they need to successfully transition to civilian life once their service period concludes, American Job Centers give Priority of Service to eligible veterans and spouses to access qualified employment, training, and placement services.

    Other key workforce programs to serve vets include (but are not limited to):

    • The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), which provides resources and assistance to veterans and transitioning service members in finding employment and training opportunities; and
    • USDOL's Job Corps program, which offers education and training opportunities to economically disadvantaged young adults, including veterans. The program includes a range of support services to help participants succeed, such as career counseling, job placement assistance, and access to housing and healthcare.

    Visit MD Labor’s Veteran Services website to learn about many more resources for veterans.


Benchmarks of Success Newsletters

  • For all previous newsletter issues, click here.


Benchmarks of Success Committee Updates

Committee Chairs welcome questions from newsletter readers regarding the work in which their groups are involved! To be connected with a committee's leadership team, feel free to contact the Communications Committee at

All committees are currently meeting virtually.

  • The Executive Steering Committee is composed of the agency leaders of the partner agencies who meet periodically to provide the WIOA Alignment Group with high-level guidance. You can learn more about the Executive Steering Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The WIOA Alignment Group is composed of the department and division-level leaders of partner agencies who meet on a monthly basis to collaboratively address issues, plan joint efforts, make recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee, and manage and guide the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees. The WIOA Alignment Group typically meets on the last Monday of each month. The most recent meeting was held on March 27, 2023. The next meeting is scheduled for June 26, 2023. You can learn more about the WIOA Alignment Group’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Data and Dashboard Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in program-based performance requirements and data collection methodologies and tools. The Committee meets on a quarterly basis to develop a consistent, sustainable system all workforce partners can use to measure, analyze, display, and apply Benchmarks data to continuously improve the quality and effectiveness of services. The Committee held its most recent meeting on May 9, 2023. The group's next meeting is scheduled for August 8, 2023. You can learn more about the Data and Dashboard Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Communications Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in programs and communications methods and tools. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to foster the integration of Maryland’s workforce system by broadly promoting the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees and the services and resources of partner agencies and programs. The Benchmarks of Success newsletter is the committee's main deliverable. The newsletter serves as a central forum targeting frontline service providers, where partners can share information on important developments that impact the system. The Committee held its most recent meeting on May 11, 2023. The group's next meeting is scheduled for Juy 13, 2023. You can learn more about the Communications Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Policy Committee is comprised of representatives from partner agencies who possess subject matter expertise in workforce system policy issues. The Committee meets on a monthly basis to research policy issues and produces an annual Policy Recommendations Report. The recommendations included in the Report help to guide system priorities and initiatives. The next meeting of the Committee is to be determined. You can learn more about the Policy Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee works to advance a unified professional development program that helps all partner programs maximize access to and use of skills and credentialing and life management skills, eliminate barriers to employment through the use of supportive services, and strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce system. The Committee typically meets on the third Wednesday of each month. The group held its most recent meeting on April 19, 2023 and has the next meeting scheduled for June 21, 2023. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s activities here.


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