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WIOA Reauthorization

On Wednesday, April 21, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA) and Republican Leader Virginia Foxx (NC) released a statement announcing the start of a bi-partisan effort to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) - the country’s primary federal workforce development legislation. That same day, the committee held a bi-partisan roundtable to discuss opportunities to strengthen WIOA and confront challenges caused by the pandemic.

Click here to read the joint statement.

College Affordability

President Biden plans to unveil the second part of his infrastructure proposal — the “American Family Plan” — this week, ahead of his first address to Congress. The administration has indicated that this proposal will focus on “human infrastructure,” and could include provisions to reduce child care costs and make community college and pre-K free.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have been rolling out their own plans to provide free tuition at community colleges and public four-year universities. Several bills on the issue of college affordability were introduced last week as outlined below. These proposals would go further than just providing for free community college — they would create a federal-state partnership to make public four-year college and even private nonprofit minority-serving institutions free.

College for All Act

On Wednesday, April 21, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA) introduced the College for All Act, which would make community college free for everyone, and public colleges and universities tuition-free for all students from families with annual incomes below $125,000. Modeled on the Education Beyond High School Plan introduced by President Biden on his campaign trail, the legislation would also double the maximum Pell Grant award from $6,495 to $12,990 for the 2021-22 school year, excluding for-profit institutions from the funding increase. The Pell Grant would be tied to annual inflation adjustments, have an increased lifetime eligibility from 6 years to 7.5 years, and be exempt from being taxed as income. Students protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be eligible under the proposal.

The bill would create a federal-state partnership where the federal government covers 75 percent of the costs and states contribute the remainder. It would also encourage states and localities to sustain and expand existing tuition-free programs but would also include "an automatic stabilizer to increase that share to 90 percent in the case of an economic downturn.” For students from families who earn less than $125,000 a year, it would make tuition-free four-year institutions and certain other institutions: private, nonprofit historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions.The bill would also make an annual $10 billion federal investment to cover student support programs at these institutions.

The bill would be paid for by the Tax on Wall Street Speculation Act, which was reintroduced Wednesday by Senator Sanders. Education groups have expressed concern that Congress would not be willing to fund a bill that makes two-years colleges free and doubles the Pell Grant, which would come at a large price.

Click here to read more on the bill.

America’s College Promise Act

On Tuesday, April 27, Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Congressman Andy Levin (MI) are expected to introduce the America’s College Promise Act, which would create a partnership between the federal government and states and Indian tribes to waive resident tuition and fees at two-year community colleges and technical college programs. The legislation would provide a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by states for students' community college tuition and fees, even before other financial aid is applied. It would also ensure that the programs offer credits that are fully transferable to either four-year institutions in each student's state, or to occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry. The proposal would also create a new grant program for minority-serving institutions to help them cover “a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.”

Debt-Free College Act

On Thursday, April 22, Senator Brian Schatz (HI) and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI) reintroduced the Debt-Free College Act, which would create a federal-state partnership that provides federal grants to match state higher education appropriations “in exchange for a commitment to help students pay for the full cost of attendance without having to take on debt.” It would also make students who qualify for DACA eligible for Pell Grants and create an office within the Education Department for the partnerships that would be responsible for administering the program and developing metrics to evaluate states that participate. States would be responsible for submitting a five-year plan that outlines how they will provide debt-free college.

Click here to read the press release on the bill.

Child Care for Working Families

On Thursday, April 22, Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Congressman Bobby Scott reintroduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would overhaul the existing Child Care Development Block Grant program to make funding mandatory. The legislation would ensure that no family making below 150 percent of state median income would spend more than 7 percent of their income on child care. President Joe Biden is expected to unveil the second part of his infrastructure plan soon, which would provide investments in the child care sector, and lawmakers are hoping this bill would provide a framework for the President’s package.

On Monday, April 26, more than 150 House Democrats led by Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA) plan to send a pair of letters to House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT) and ranking member Tom Cole (OK) outlining their demands for fiscal 2022 spending on child care. One of the letters calls for $12.1 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program and increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act early childhood programs; the other letter calls for $12.1 billion for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

On Wednesday, April 21, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on child care and paid leave where child care workers and business owners - all of whom were working moms - testified before lawmakers to shed light on the child care crisis. According to Committee Chair Richard Neal (MA), more than 4 million spots in child care programs may be permanently lost due to the pandemic. The negative effects of the pandemic on the sector has disproportionately affected individuals working in it but also mothers who are forced to leave the labor market to care for their children at home.

Click here to learn more about the Child Care for Working Families Act.

Click here to read the press release and letters.

Click here to access the committee hearing.

Confirmation Hearings

Department of Labor

On Wednesday, April 21, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 13-9 to advance the nomination of California Labor Secretary Julie Su - President Biden’s nominee to serve as Deputy Secretary of Labor. The date has not yet been set for the full Senate floor vote on Su’s nomination.

Department of Education

On Wednesday, April 21, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 14-8 to advance the nomination of San Diego Unified School District superintendent Cindy Marten to be Deputy Secretary of Education and 19-3 to advance Institute for College Access and Success President James Kvaal to be Under Secretary of Education. The date has not yet been set for the full Senate floor vote on Marten and Kvaal’s nominations.

Senate HELP Committee Hearing

On Tuesday, April 20, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a full committee hearing title Covid-19 Recovery: Supporting Workers and Modernizing the Workforce Through Quality Education, Training, and Employment Opportunities. During the hearing, the committee discussed apprenticeships and other non-traditional pathways to jobs as a means to move individuals through their careers. Before the pandemic, those changes were probably coming in 7-10 years, said Maria Flynn, the CEO of JFF and previously a long-time veteran of the U.S Department of Labor. But that time horizon has shrunk to 2-3 years, predicts Flynn, who testified at the Tuesday hearing.

Click here to access a video of the hearing.

House Education and Labor Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, April 28, the House Education and Labor Committee will hold the hearing Building Back Better: Investing in Improving Schools, Creating Jobs, and Strengthening Families and our Economy to discuss topics included in the infrastructure plan, including free community college.

Click here to access the hearing.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending April 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 547,000, a decrease of 39,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 10,000 from 576,000 to 586,000. The 4-week moving average was 651,000, a decrease of 27,750 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised down by 4,250 from 683,000 to 678,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending April 10, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the full report.

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