The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help keep ill and injured employees in the workforce.

Minnesota was one of five states to receive the award, called Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Phase II grant.

It is a four-year $19,518,509 grant through DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Programs (ODEP) that 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.

The goal is to help keep 3,200 Minnesotans connected to the workforce over the next four years, DEED said in an announcement this week. 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,” DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said in the announcement. “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.”

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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. It can offer such assistance for up to six months.

So far during Phase I, which started in 2018 and is runs through 2021,MN RETAIN successfully achieved its goal of serving 150 injured or ill employees. DEED said 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.

DEED will work in collaboration with fellow state agencies, employers, health care organizations and Workforce Development Areas 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 injury that impacts their ability to work.

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