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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - December 18, 2023

House Committee Advances Workforce Legislation


Washington Update


Workforce Legislation

On Tuesday, December 12, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce advanced legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), along with a bill that would allow students to use Pell grants to pay for short-term job training programs. The House panel voted 44-1 to advance the bipartisan bill “A Stronger Workforce for America Act” (ASWA, intended to improve WIOA and help close the skills gap, provide accountability, and help American workers obtain high-quality, well-paying jobs. The legislation would require states to spend more of their WIOA funds — no less than 50% in each local area — on training, rather than administration or other services. It calls for more focus on incumbent worker training, the use of real-time labor market data, and skills-based hiring as a way to promote economic mobility. It also aims to streamline the lists of eligible-training providers by putting a greater emphasis on employment outcomes. 

The committee didn’t advance three amendments offered by Congressman Bob Good (VA), which included eliminating the Jobs Corps program, dismantling registered apprenticeship requirements and requiring use of eVerify for participating WIOA employers. Congressman Good was also the only member to vote against the legislation.

The companion bill, the “Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act,” passed the committee on a vote of 37-8, and would allow students to use Pell grants to pay for education programs as short as eight weeks long — currently there is a 15-week minimum. It would allow all types of institutions, including online and for-profit, to participate in the expansion — a provision that has drawn criticism from several Democrats — 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. If passed, the Education Department would begin awarding short-term Pell grants starting on July 1, 2025, for the 2025-2026 school year.

The expansion would be paid for by barring private institutions that are subject to an excise tax on investment income from awarding federal student loans or grants. Those institutions must also guarantee emergency aid from institutional funds to Pell grant recipients at the institution, and maintain or increase their Pell grant enrollment each award year. Several higher education groups, including The American Council on Education, have spoken out in opposition to the bill because of concerns over this provision. Community college groups said they support making short-term programs Pell-eligible but also expressed concern over the pay for provision. 

The U.S. Conference of Mayors response letter to ASWA will be forthcoming.

Click here to access information about the markup.


Appropriations

It seems likely that Congress will leave Washington before Christmas without a topline spending agreement in place. If lawmakers fail to reach a deal on spending limits this week, Congress will essentially be out of time to finalize details of the appropriations bills by the January 19 deadline, which is the first of two set in the continuing resolution (CR). Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (LA) is pushing for the overall $1.59 trillion level set in the text of the debt limit deal and eliminating a ‘side deal’ of $69 billion extra in nondefense spending agreed to in those negotiations — cutting nondefense spending by around 9 percent below FY24 levels, which is a nonstarter for Democrats. Speaker Johnson said House Republicans have sent the Senate a deal and are awaiting a counter. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) has been vocal that she wants Johnson to accept the ‘full’ deal that the House Republicans made with the White House, which includes the additional spending. 


Department of Labor Final Rule

On Tuesday, December 13, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the final rule to implement requirements of Executive Order 14055, “Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts,” which aims to prevent the displacement of skilled and experienced workers in the federal services workforce. The rule requires that contractors and subcontractors that work on federal contracts must extend service employees employed under the predecessor contract a right of first refusal of employment on the successor contract. 

On Thursday, December 14, the Department released a notice of proposed rulemaking on registered apprenticeship programs. The new rule would take steps to create a more uniform system, and bolster the ability for high school and community college students to smoothly transition into an apprenticeship. Republicans have criticized DOL, claiming it is usurping congressional authority. The Department will hold a webinar on Thursday, January 11 to review the proposed changes and how to submit public comments. 

This month, the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs completed its review of several DOL rules, including a proposal to undo the Trump administration’s association health plan policy and a final rule updating the prohibited transaction exemption (PTE) procedures, which gives the Department the go-ahead to release the final rule.


Click here to register to attend the January 11 webinar on the NPRM National Apprenticeship System Enhancements. 


Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending December 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 202,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 220,000 to 221,000. The 4-week moving average was 213,250, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 220,750 to 221,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.3 percent for the week ending December 2, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. 

Click here to access the report.

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