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DEED awarded $19.5 million grant to keep ill, injured workers in the workforce

Minnesota was one of five states to receive this grant.

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The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) was awarded a Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) this week. Minnesota was one of five states to receive such a grant.  

The four-year $19,518,509 grant through DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Programs (ODEP) will fund MN RETAIN, which helps employees stay at or return to work more rapidly when an injury or illness impacts their ability to work. Its goal is to help keep 3,200 Minnesotans connected to the workforce over the next four years. This phase of MN RETAIN will open for enrollment in late summer 2021.  

“Now more than ever, we need to do all we can to keep Minnesotans connected to the labor force, and MN RETAIN does just that,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “During the pandemic, we’ve seen labor force participation fall in Minnesota. Keeping workers in the labor force – in addition to drawing more workers into the labor force – is critical to our state’s economic recovery.” 

MN RETAIN works by connecting the injured or ill employee, their employer and their health care provider through a Return to Work Case Manager during the employee’s recovery from illness or injury. MN RETAIN can offer such assistance for up to six months.  

The case manager helps the injured employee and employer identify safe tasks and timing to return to work based on their health care provider’s recommendations. The case manager helps employers navigate paperwork, evaluate workplace accommodations for their injured or ill employee and reduce employee turnover. Safely returning to work is known to speed healing and improve outcomes for employees, and it benefits employers by retaining a valuable employee. 

Phase I of this grant started in 2018 and is currently running through 2021. During Phase I, MN RETAIN successfully achieved its goal of serving 150 injured or ill employees. Participants were able to  return to their original employer without any work restrictions, enroll in additional education and training programs, or participate in temporary work experience in the public sector that met their physical restrictions. Program partners worked with 200 other public sector and nonprofit organizations to provide transitional work opportunities for participants when work restrictions prevented them from returning to their regular jobs. 

DEED will work in collaboration with fellow state agencies, employers, healthcare organizations and Workforce Development Areas (WDAs) to serve eligible employees throughout Minnesota during Phase II of the RETAIN grant.  

To be eligible, workers must live and work in Minnesota, have an injury or illness that affects their ability to work, have worked in the previous 12 months and enroll in MN RETAIN within 12 weeks of the onset of the illness or injurythat impacts their ability to work.  

MN RETAIN is a collaboration between DEED, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Governor’s Workforce Development Workforce Board, Workforce Development, Inc. (WDI) and Mayo Clinic. 

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