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Congress Leaves Washington with Appropriations Fight Unresolved

Washington Update


Congress has adjourned for August recess after unsuccessful attempts to bring the FY24 Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration spending bill to the House floor for a vote. Lawmakers left Washington with several key battles, including the farm bill, still looming. The Senate will return from recess on September 5, while the House is on recess until September 12. Congress must pass the 12 spending bills before the September 30 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown. The frequently used stop-gap funding measure to extend the deadline remains an option should Congress need it; however, the debt ceiling deal includes a provision that would automatically cut government spending by 1 percent across the board, should lawmakers fail to pass the bills by the end of the year. Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus members are demanding steeper cuts to the House’s already slim FY24 funding levels. The Senate Appropriations Committee was able to complete its review of all 12 FY24 spending measures with bipartisan support, but the stark contrast between Senate and House appropriations bills promises a contentious September.

Child Care Stabilization Grants

On Monday, July 31, members of Congress sent letters to President Joe Biden expressing concern over the child care crisis and urging him to support an annual investment of $16 billion in aid to the child care industry. Over 100 Representatives and 30 Senators signed-on to letters from each chamber, both of which requested Biden's support in extending the Child Care Stabilization grants passed in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which will expire September 30. According to lawmakers, should the Administration put forth any supplemental appropriations packages, emergency funding for child care must be included. Child care stabilization funds Congress approved in ARPA must be spent by September 30, while supplemental Child Care and Development Fund dollars need to be spent by September 2024.

Click here to access the full House letter.

Click here to access the full Senate letter.

Department of Education

On Tuesday, August 2, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined Congressman Glenn Ivey (MD) and Maryland Secretary of Labor Portia Wu at Prince George’s County’s Crossland High School in Temple Hills, Maryland to hold a discussion with students, employers, and school leadership on the importance of early access to career pathways and apprenticeship programs. During the event, Cardona cited Prince George’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program as a national model.

Click here to read the press release on the event.

Capital Readiness Program

On Friday, August 4, Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled plans to provide grants to 43 nonprofits and community-based organizations as part of the $125 million Capital Readiness Program (CRP), which seeks to bolster historically underserved entrepreneurs’ access to capital. The winning organizations are forming partnerships to assist and train underserved entrepreneurs seeking resources, tools, and support to start or scale their businesses in high-growth, high-wage industries such as healthcare, climate resilient technology, asset management, infrastructure, and more. The CRP is funded through the American Rescue Plan and aligns with President Biden’s economic blueprint, which the White House has dubbed “Bidenomics.” The CRP is the largest direct federal investment in small business incubators and accelerators.

Click here to access the White House press release.

H-2A Visas

Members of the Congressional bipartisan agricultural workforce panel are striving to create recommendations for the H-2A visa program by the end of the year. Industry experts have testified in favor of expanding the temporary seasonal work program in multiple ways, including both the timelines for the visas and the sectors included. While the notion of expanding the program’s scope has significant bipartisan support, particularly from members representing rural communities, the chances for significant change are very slim.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, August 4, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the July unemployment report, which showed nonfarm payrolls increased 187,000 last month with the unemployment rate falling to 3.5 percent. Economists anticipated 200,000 in gains and the unemployment rate to remain at 3.6%. For the Federal Reserve, the slowdown is a welcome indicator as it works to cool the labor market in order to tame inflation. Solid job growth combined with a marked easing of inflation, which was 3 percent in June, has abated fears of a coming recession.

Click here to access the report.

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