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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - February 20, 2024

Progress on Appropriations; House Committee Leadership to Change


Washington Update


Appropriations

The two government shutdown deadlines are just weeks away and, while progress is being made on the budget, lawmakers still don’t have a final deal in place. If a full budget agreement is not reached by the deadlines, March 1 and March 8 respectively, a continuing resolution will likely fund the government through the remaining fiscal year. Lawmakers are optimistic, however, that a budget agreement will be reached before the deadlines and a continuing resolution will not be necessary. In January, a top-line framework was agreed on for the budget, setting the spending levels with bipartisan agreement. Since then, momentum has continued however certain issues, such as IRS funding and election security, remain points of contention. 


House Committee on Education and the Workforce Leadership

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC), who  received a rare waiver to lead the panel this past Congress, recently announced she will not lead the Committee in the next Congress. While she will no longer chair the committee, she is still running for reelection in her congressional district. Two lawmakers have already thrown their hats in the ring to take Foxx’s place - Representatives Burgess Owens (UT) and Tim Walberg (MI), both of whom currently sit on the committee. Their chairmanship depends on whether or not Republicans are able to hold the majority in the House. Both Owens and Walberg cited supporting workforce development as a top priority if they were to lead the committee. Owens said he would focus on school choice and Learning and Employment Records, which are verified digital records of a person’s education experiences, work history and skills.


Su Confirmation

On Wednesday, February 14, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) sent a letter urging HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (VT) to hold another confirmation hearing to consider the renomination of Julie Su for Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL). In the letter, Cassidy details several DOL policies that Republicans and businesses have criticized, including delays in the H-2B visa process, its tougher test for independent contractor status, and proposed expansion of overtime guarantees, among others.

Click here to read the press release and access the letter.


Senators Call on DOL for Nonprofit Data

On Monday, February 12, Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Edward Markey (MA) wrote a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) Acting Secretary Julie Su and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young recommending that DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLA) include workforce data for nonprofit organizations to help guide policy making and other action that affect that sector. The letter suggests the data, which is currently published roughly every five years, should be in the BLS quarterly report on employment and wages. According to the letter, the change would cost the agency $4 million, which the Department could include in its budget request for FY25. 

Senators Warren and Markey argue that the BLS budget hasn’t kept up with recent inflation, leading to a reduction in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. They contend that disaggregated data for nonprofit organizations, which employ 10 percent of Americans, could have been included in those quarterly reports with more funding. Lawmakers and business leaders use the quarterly census data on employment and wages for specific sectors. The quarterly data is the foundation for other federal and state agency programs, like the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Employment Security Program Administration, according to the BLS. According to the Independent Sector, having nonprofit-specific data published every five years instead of quarterly forces some nonprofit organizations to use resources to gather their own information, or rely on outdated estimates and projections.

Click here to access the full letter.


Support Letter for Automatic Work Permit Extension for Immigrants

On Monday, February 12, over 40 mayor and county leaders sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Biden Administration to issue an automatic work permit extension for immigrants for 540 days or longer. In the letter, local leaders warned that inaction could threaten local economies and cause hundreds of thousands of immigrants to lose their jobs due to processing delays.

Click here to access the letter.


House Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, February 14, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held the hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Wage and Hour Division.” During the hearing, subcommittee members heard testimony from the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman.

Click here to access the hearing recap.


Farm Bill Reauthorization

Leaders from both parties are calling on Congress to pass a revised Farm Bill before funding expires this summer, however disagreement remains over key provisions of the legislation with neither party wanting to cut food aid and conservation programs, but disputing the path forward. Republicans have proposed increasing subsidies to farmers, which requires finding new funds, to lower those food costs. The GOP has also signaled they would like to strip funding from climate and food aid programs and use it to increase payments to commodity farmers, particularly in crops like peanuts, rice and cotton. Leading Democrats have called on Republicans to put aside proposals to cut billions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food aid. On Wednesday, February 14, during a House Committee on Agriculture hearing, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack received pushback from Republicans over the department’s focus on climate change. Several Democrats have privately suggested that a reauthorization of the farm bill won’t happen this year, looking to 2025 when there’s a new Congress. 

Click here to access a video of the hearing.


Survey on Workforce Pell

On Thursday, February 15, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA) released a joint statement celebrating the recent survey results from a recent National Institute for Civil Discourse poll, which indicated there is strong public support for Workforce Pell. According to the survey: 79% believe the kind of career-connected learning that would be supported through Workforce Pell gets too little support relative to college. Additionally, 87% believe performance outcomes are an appropriate measure of short-term program quality, with 64% supporting earning requirements.

Click here to read the joint press release and learn more about the survey results.


Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending February 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 212,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 218,000 to 220,000. The 4-week moving average was 218,500, an increase of 5,750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 212,250 to 212,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.3 percent for the week ending February 3, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate. 

Click here to read the full report.

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