Campus News

Beshear, Coleman Announce $21.6M Grant Expanding Assistance for Kentucky’s Newly Injured, Ill Workers to Remain on the Job

photo of RETAIN news conference speakers left to right: Human Development Institute Executive Director Kathy Sheppard-Jones; Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman; and UK President Eli Capilouto sitting in front of mics at a table
Participating in the RETAIN announcement were, left to right, Kathy Sheppard-Jones, executive director of the Human Development Institute at UK; Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman; and UK President Eli Capilouto. Photo by Emily Mosely.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 6, 2021) — Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced today the state has received a $21.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to boost efforts to help newly injured and ill employees remain at or return to work.

“We know that maintaining work is so important,” said Gov. Beshear. “When people leave Kentucky’s workforce because they become sick or have an injury, it can be detrimental — not only to them, but to their families, employers and Kentucky’s economy.”

The Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Phase 2 funding is the largest federal grant awarded to date to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).

Kentucky, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio and Vermont were awarded a total of $103 million in the Phase 2 program expansion. In 2018, Kentucky received $3.5 million and was one of eight selected for the Phase 1 pilot program.

Lt. Gov. Coleman announced the grant funding Thursday afternoon at the University of Kentucky.

The federal funding will enable RETAIN Kentucky to:

  • expand implementation statewide to serve over 3,000 employees.
  • address enduring implications that COVID-19 will have on the physical and mental health of our workforce.
  • expand a multisystems leadership team across health care, public health and employers that will advise on policies and practices that promote an inclusive, healthy Kentucky workforce.
  • develop pre-professional and continuing education training in Return-to-Work/Stay-at-Work strategies.

“RETAIN Kentucky has helped hundreds of Kentuckians stay in the workforce. The additional $21.6 million from Phase 2 funding will allow Kentucky to continue this important program and help thousands more workers to stay connected to their jobs and strengthen our workforce,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman, who is also the secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

“We have learned valuable lessons throughout Phase 1 that have put us on a strong path to even more success over the next four years. Ultimately, we intend to embed stay-at-work/return-to-work interventions and strategies across systems that will continue long after the grant ends,” said Cora McNabb, executive director of the OVR and lead administrator for the grant.

The University of Kentucky, in collaboration with the Office of Research, Human Development Institute, Human Resources, and UK HealthCare, will continue to lead RETAIN implementation.

“We will provide early intervention services and create academic opportunities both for undergraduate and graduate students that will build capacity of the professionals of tomorrow,” said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto. “The University of Kentucky is gratified to be a partner in this exciting effort.”

In the Phase 1 pilot, more than 200 employees received services and 1,100-plus health care providers and stakeholders were trained.

“In a state where roughly one-third of adults have a physical or mental impairment, we need to deploy strategies intentionally that will help us build and strengthen a workforce that is inclusive of all Kentuckians,” said Kathy Sheppard-Jones, executive director of the Human Development Institute at UK. “We have a unique opportunity to change the trajectory of the lives of people who sustain injury or illness and who might otherwise become disconnected from work. Our emphasis is on non-work injuries which have fewer supports available and are up to eight times more likely to occur than an on-the-job injury.”

To learn more about RETAIN in Kentucky, visit and follow on Twitter @KyRETAIN.

Read about other key updates, actions and information from Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Coleman at and the Governor’s official social media accounts on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.