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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

XPRIZE, a nonprofit organization that holds grand competitions to inspire innovation, announced this week that it would launch a $5 million contest to help retrain workers who lost employment to automation.

Why it matters: The pandemic has only accelerated the job-destroying effects of automation. As the U.S. looks to put tens of millions of people back to work, truly big solutions will be needed.

How it works: In the new contest, called XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, teams will take a cohort of people who had been in lower-skilled occupations, attempt to retrain them over a period of 60 days, and then place them in more sustainable new occupations.

  • "We hope this competition is really going to stimulate a conversation about using technology to create a better future for jobs," says XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari.

Background: XPRIZE has run a number of innovation competitions since it was founded in 1995, including the Ansari XPRIZE, which offered $10 million to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 62 miles into space twice within two weeks.

  • The contest, which was won by Mojave Aerospace Ventures after more than eight years of work, arguably helped kick off the private spaceflight era.
  • Such innovation competitions have a historical pedigree that goes back to the Longitude Prize, which the British government awarded in 1714 to the first person who developed a way for a seagoing ship to measure longitude.

The bottom line: Prize contents can encourage out of the box thinking, which is something the field of reskilling desperately needs.

Go deeper: Coronavirus speeds the way for robots in the workplace

Go deeper

House passes government funding, debt ceiling bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to fund the government through early December, along with a measure to raise the debt ceiling through December 2022.

Why it matters: The stopgap measure, which needs to be passed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires on Sept. 30, faces a difficult journey in the Senate where at least ten Republicans would need to vote in favor.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The Democrats' debt dilemma

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats find themselves in a political and potentially catastrophic economic quagmire as Republicans stand firm on denying them any help in raising the federal debt ceiling.

Why it matters: The Democrats are technically right — the debt comes, in part, from past spending by President Trump and his predecessors, not only President Biden's new big-ticket programs. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is saddling them with the public relations challenge of making that distinction during next year's crucial midterms.

Pelosi's endgame

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears at a news conference on Tuesday. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began her infrastructure endgame Tuesday, pressuring centrists to ultimately support as much social spending as possible while pleading with progressives to pass the roads-and-bridges package preceding it.

Why it matters: Neither group can achieve what it wants without the other, their ultimatums be damned. The leaders of both acknowledged the speaker's unique gift for pulling off a deal after separate conversations with Democratic leaders.