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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - December 12, 2023

House Committee Set to Markup Workforce Legislation Tomorrow


Washington Update


WIOA Reauthorization

On Tuesday, December 12, at 10:15 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Committee is set to mark up the recently released legislation, A Stronger Workforce for America Act, which amends and reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as well as the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act. Released last week, the bipartisan A Stronger Workforce for America Act aims to revamp the nation’s workforce system and make improvements to WIOA to help close the skills gap, provide accountability, and help American workers obtain high-quality, well-paying jobs. 

The legislation authorizes state and local workforce boards to aid employers in implementing skills-based hiring practices; places a greater emphasis on work-based learning for youth and on workforce education programs at community colleges that align with in-demand jobs; and streamlines the "eligible training provider list" to focus on outcomes and ensure eligible programs are aligned with the skill and hiring demands of employers. It also prioritizes employer-led initiatives that equip workers with skill sets to fill jobs in critical industries and help the currently employed workforce upskill to avoid displacement and advance their careers. The legislation dedicates 50 percent of the adult and dislocated worker funding toward upskilling workers through “individual training accounts” (ITAs) and on-the-job learning while redirecting an existing funding stream toward ITAs for displaced workers.

Following committee work, the legislation will need to pass the full House before being considered in the Senate. Although there is bipartisan support, its fate in the full House, as well as the Senate, is uncertain.  On the Senate side, Republican members on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have had internal conversations about WIOA but haven’t heard of any plans from Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (VT) to take it up.

Click here to access the legislation fact sheet.

Click here to access the bill summary.

Click here to access the full bill.

Click here to access the section-by-section summary.

Click here to access a livestream of the markup.

Click here to access the press release.


Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act

On Tuesday, December 5, lawmakers introduced the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act that would allow students to apply for Pell Grants for short-term workforce programs. The legislation, introduced by Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC), Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA), House Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (NY) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark DeSaulnier (CA), expands access to Pell Grants by allowing short-term workforce training programs with at least 150 instruction hours (but less than 600) to qualify for coverage and allows students to apply for Workforce Pell Grants beginning July 2025. Students can opt for for-profit and online training programs, but state workforce boards will be required to determine if a program’s curriculum meets the threshold of high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industries as well as recognized post-secondary credentials. The U.S. Department of Education will make final eligibility determinations. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has also previously signaled his support for a bipartisan expansion of Pell Grants. 

Previously, the House and Senate have struggled to come to agreement over Pell Grant expansion that would include for-profit colleges and online programs. In March, Congressman Scott introduced the Jobs to Compete Act, which did not include exclusionary language on for-profit participation but did have several quality assurance guardrails. The bill faces uncertainty in the Senate. On Tuesday, December 12, at 10:15 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Committee is scheduled to mark up the legislation.

Click here to access the fact sheet.

Click here to access the full text of the legislation.

Click here to access a bill summary.


Appropriations

On Wednesday, December 6, Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) warned that accepting House Speaker Mike Johnson’s idea of an extension of the current stopgap spending bill through the end of the fiscal year, with ‘appropriate adjustments,’ would be ‘devastating’ for federal agencies and families across the country. Senator Murray stressed that it has never been done and would result in major cuts to critical domestic programs, including nutrition assistance for women and children, federal hiring, food safety and medical research. Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Susan Collins (ME) has also warned a full-year stopgap would hurt military personnel, Navy shipbuilding, readiness investments and other defense priorities.

Click here to read Senator Murray’s Debt Limit Deal Implications memo.

Click here to access the “implications of a date-change, full-year CR” fact sheet.


Pathways to Paychecks Act

On Wednesday, December 6, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee ranking member Bill Cassidy (LA) introduced the Pathways to Paychecks Act, which restores a Trump-era regulation that eliminated the requirement that states use civil-service employees to administer Wagner-Peyser Act employment offices. Last month, the Biden Administration reinstated the policy - with the exception of Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan, which have had different models for decades. Earlier this month, The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) wrote a letter in support of the legislation highlighting the flexibility it would provide local workforce boards regarding staffing.

Click here to access the USCM letter of support.


Click here to access the full text of the bill.


TRAIN Act

On Thursday, December 7, Representatives Mike Thompson (CA), Lucy McBath (GA), Jahana Hayes (CT), Jamaal Bowman (NY), and Mark Takano (CA) introduced the Training, Retention, and Investment Now (TRAIN) Act to provide students and workers educational opportunities to prepare them for a successful career. The TRAIN Act codifies and expands the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants program at the Department of Labor (DOL), which provides funding to community colleges for partnerships with local employers.  The legislation authorizes a competitive grant program that aims to build community colleges’ capacity to provide employment and training programs leading to postsecondary credentials for in-demand industries or occupations.

Click here to read the full press release and learn more about the legislation.


YouthBuild for the Future Act

On Wednesday, December 6, Senators Edward Markey (MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Chris Coons (DE), and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT) introduced the bicameral legislation YouthBuild for the Future Act to reauthorize the YouthBuild program to provide education, employment and leadership skills to teenagers and young adults aged 16-24 who are disconnected from school and work opportunities, including those who are homeless, foster care youth, migrants, disabled or offenders. The legislation would reserve grants for rural and tribal communities; extend the allowed period of follow-up services for participants to 24 months; allow funding for participant meals; allow grantees to count YouthBuild funds towards matching requirements under the National Community Service Act; and require states to share Unemployment Insurance wage data with YouthBuild programs.

Click here to read the press release and learn more about the legislation.


DOL Rulemaking

On Wednesday, December 6, the U.S. government published its fall regulatory agenda – sharing its rulemaking plans for the remainder of 2023 and early 2024. The Department of Labor’s overtime rule is, once again, facing delays. According to the agenda posted, a final rule on overtime will come out in April 2024. The rule would expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. There has been Republican push back on the rule. The Department’s independent contract rule, which was originally set to be published in November, has also seen delays but still does not have a release date.

The Department has also said it’s looking into updating Schedule A, a list of in-demand jobs for which employers pursuing work visas can sidestep certain procedural hurdles. The department said it is specifically seeking to understand whether Schedule A is effective for addressing labor shortages in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, as well as how to identify new STEM fields experiencing worker shortages.

An update to the H-2B visa program for temporary non-farm workers, which the administration had said to expect earlier this year, has been pushed back to October 2024. More than a dozen Republican senators sent a letter to acting Labor Secretary Julie Su decrying the agency’s proposed rules expanding rights for temporary agricultural workers as an attempt to strengthen unions’ power in the industry.

Click here to access the letter.


Unemployment Rate

On Friday, December 8, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the November unemployment report, which showed the U.S. labor market added 199,000 jobs last month with the unemployment rate falling to 3.7% from 3.9% - adding more jobs than economists anticipated. The Federal Reserve is considering whether further interest rate increases are necessary to slow the economy down to get inflation back to the 2% target. Average hourly earning, a key inflation indicator, increased by 0.4% last month and 4% from a year ago. The industry that saw the biggest increase in jobs was health care, which reported 77,000 gains.

Click here to access the report.

Click here to read Acting Secretary of Labor Su’s statement on the November jobs report.

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