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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - February 21st, 2023

EDA Seeks Input on Regional Tech Hubs

Washington Update

EDA Tech Hubs RFI

On Tuesday, February 14, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking information to inform the program design, structure, and evaluation of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program. The Tech Hubs program will help U.S. regions build and evolve into centers of innovation and seeks to support key technologies and industries of the future, strengthen U.S. economic and national security, and ensure that industries of the future start, grow, and remain in the United States.

Congress authorized the Department of Commerce to designate geographically distributed regional technology and innovation hubs and to award strategy development grants and strategy implementation grants to eligible consortia. Of the $10 billion authorized for the Tech Hubs program from federal fiscal year 2023 through federal fiscal year 2027, $500 million has been made available for the Tech Hubs program as of February 14, 2023 — the publication of the RFI. The RFI will be open for 30 days after publication.

The Tech Hubs program is an economic development initiative to drive technology — and innovation-centric growth that leverages existing strengths (public and private) within a region to catalyze technology advancement and the creation of good jobs for American workers equitably and inclusively. This RFI seeks to encourage the field of regional innovation and economic development to provide evidence-based input that will be used to inform the design and implementation of the Tech Hubs program to maximize American competitiveness.

Click here to access the RFI in the Federal Register.

Click here for more information on Tech Hubs and for instructions on how to submit your input.

Senate Appropriations Committee

On Wednesday, February 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced that Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) will serve as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV) will serve as ranking member. Democrats on the panel remained unchanged while Republicans lost one seat and had to fill two vacancies due to retirements.

Democrats include: Senators Baldwin, Patty Murray (WA), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Brian Schatz (HI), Chris Murphy (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV). Republicans on the panel include returning members: Senators Capito, Lindsey Graham (SC), Jerry Moran (KS), John Kennedy (LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS) and Marco Rubio (FL). New Republicans on the committee are Senators John Boozman (AR) and Katie Britt (AL).

Senate HELP Committee Confirmations

On Wednesday, February 15, President Biden’s nominee to be the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division administrator, Jessica Looman, hit a roadblock in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and did not advance. The committee split along party lines on whether to approve Looman to serve as administrator, with 11 Democrats voting in favor of her nomination and 10 GOP votes in opposition. One of the yes votes - from Senator Bob Casey (PA) - was cast by proxy and cannot be used to break an otherwise tied vote. Casey underwent surgery for prostate cancer early last week and his recovery is expected to last several weeks. As such it seems unlikely the committee will advance any controversial nominations — like a labor secretary — until he returns and Democrats can push through party-line votes.

Department of Agriculture WIC

On Thursday, February 16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investment of $750,000 to support the development of the public health workforce within the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC. This project is part of a joint agency initiative between USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the Food and Nutrition Service, which is expected to cultivate comprehensive and sustained solutions to increase cultural competency and culturally responsive care in WIC, in turn increasing participation in WIC and improving the health of participants.

USDA is seeking applications to develop a multifaceted five-year national WIC workforce strategy that will recruit and train WIC employees to best serve WIC families. This is part of a larger initiative to modernize, strengthen and expand the reach of WIC, aiming to increase participation and improve health outcomes of moms, babies and young children. USDA seeks an entity to develop a 5-year National WIC Workforce Development Strategy that will be implemented by FNS and NIFA as a joint agency WIC Workforce Initiative. The joint agency initiative leverages the experience and expertise of FNS and NIFA, including NIFA’s partnerships with land-grant universities and colleges, to strengthen the diversity and cultural competency of the WIC workforce to better serve all WIC families. The request for applications is open through April 17, 2023.

Click here to read the press release and learn more about the Request for Applicants.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending February 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 194,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 1,000 from 196,000 to 195,000. The 4-week moving average was 189,500, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 250 from 189,250 to 189,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending February 4, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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