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Congress Reconvenes; Bipartisan Apprenticeship Legislation Introduced

Washington Update


This week, Congress returns to Washington to start its three-week legislative sprint before August recess. On Monday, July 10, the Senate returned to work while the House will convene Tuesday, July 11. First order of business will be negotiations on the annual spending bills that Congress needs to finalize and pass before the fiscal year ends on September 30. While three months seems long, Congress is set to leave on July 28 and return after Labor Day, so lawmakers will truly have approximately four weeks to put spending cuts in place that were set by President Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (CA) as part of the debt ceiling deal in May.

Department of Labor

On Monday, July 3, the White House confirmed it has put long-time Democratic adviser Gene Sperling in charge of facilitating labor contract negotiations between the auto workers’ union and Big Three automakers. The White House indicated Sperling will work closely with Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su on all labor-related issues in the matter. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx used the appointment of Sterling to criticize and question Su’s abilities in an attempt to dissuade lawmakers from confirming her appointment as Labor Secretary. On Thursday, July 6, Foxx asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to clarify under which legal authority Su is running the Department of Labor, either the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which puts time limits on officials in an “acting” capacity, or the U.S. code section authorizing the deputy Labor secretary to fill in "until a successor is appointed."

With August recess fast approaching, lawmakers are under pressure to vote on key labor positions, such as Su’s - who still does not have a date scheduled for her full Senate vote four months after Biden nominated her to be Secretary of Labor. The positions of Senators Manchin (WV), Tester (MT), and Sinema (AZ) are still unclear and without the support of at least two of them, Su has no shot. Su has been more active in the media lately, making several TV appearances on Friday, July 7, for Jobs Day.

National Apprenticeship Act of 2023

On Monday, July 10, Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) introduced the National Apprenticeship Act of 2023. The bipartisan legislation would modernize and expand apprenticeship programs, specifically for populations not typically involved in apprenticeships, in order to get more people in high-quality, good-paying jobs. It also puts a focus on new high-demand industries, such as advanced manufacturing and renewable energy, and would help employers develop apprenticeship programs in these industries. It would also improve wrap-around services, such as child care, transportation, and housing, to assist individuals in completing their program. Traditionally, wraparound services have been a priority for Democrats and something conservatives tend to see as unnecessary.

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

House Education and the Workforce Committee

On Friday, July 7, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley (CA) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su regarding processing delays of H-2B applications. The Department of Labor (DOL) is required to take first action on applications within seven days, but it has taken 90 days for many applications and the delays are impacting businesses.

Click here to access the full letter.

Recompete Pilot Programs

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is now accepting applications for its $200 million Recompete Pilot Program. The initiative is designed to make focused investments in communities most in need of economic resources and options so that all communities have a path to economic prosperity. This is predicated on the belief that communities know best what they need to address persistent economic distress. EDA will partner with local communities and make large, flexible investments based on their priorities. This program, authorized through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, targets areas where prime-age (25-54 years) employment significantly trails the national average, with the goal to close this gap through bottom-up, long-term strategies that tackle a community’s unique economic challenges. EDA will host two informational webinars on Friday, July 7 and Tuesday, July 11, about the Recompete Pilot Program.

This first Recompete Pilot Program NOFO allows applicants to apply for (1) Strategy Development Grants, (2) approval of a Recompete Plan, or (3) both. EDA anticipates awarding approximately $6 million to $12 million in total for Strategy Development Grants and approving at least 20 Recompete Plans at the conclusion of Phase 1. Applicants with approved Recompete Plans will be invited to submit a Phase 2 application. EDA expects to announce Phase 1 winners and release the Phase 2 NOFO in winter 2023. In Phase 2, applicants can apply for larger implementation awards. EDA expects to make approximately 4-8 implementation investments, with awarded regions receiving between $20 million and $50 million on average. The Phase 1 NOFO deadline is Thursday, October 5.

Click here to register for the July 7th at 12:00 pm EDT webinar.

Click here to register for the July 11th at 4:30 pm EDT webinar.

Click here to access the full NOFO.

Click here to access additional resources.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, July 7, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the June unemployment report, which showed nonfarm payrolls increased 209,000 last month - the smallest advance since the end of 2020. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, a 0.1 percentage point decrease from the previous month. However, Black workers saw their unemployment rate rise to 6% in June from 5.6% in May, making it the second consecutive monthly increase. Within that demographic, unemployment among women ticked higher to 5.4% in June from 5.3% in May. For men, it grew to 5.9% in June, up from 5.6% the month prior.

Click here to access the report.

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