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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - July 12, 2021

House Advances Labor Spending Bill


Washington Update


Appropriations

The House’s FY22 labor spending bill advanced out of the Labor-HHS appropriations subcommittee on Monday, July 12, by a voice vote. The legislation, which also includes Education and Health and Human Services funding, now heads to the full House Appropriations Committee for a markup.

On Sunday, July 11, the House Appropriations Committee had unveiled the FY22 draft funding bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies which provides $253.8 billion – an increase of $55.2 billion (28%) above FY21 levels. It allocates a total of $14.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Labor, an increase of $2.2 billion above the FY21 enacted level and $400 million above the President’s budget request. This includes $11.6 billion for the Employment and Training Administration, an increase of $1.6 billion above FY21 enacted levels and $371.2 million above the President’s request.

Of that amount, $3.1 billion is set aside for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants (an increase of $250 million from FY21) and $285 million for registered apprenticeships (an increase of $100 million), and $100 million (an increase of $55 million over the FY21 enacted level) to continue and expand Strengthening Community College Training Grants to help meet local and regional labor market demand for a skilled workforce by providing training to workers in in-demand industries at community colleges and four-year partners.

The bill would match the president’s budget request and provide $3.1 billion for unemployment insurance, an increase of $559.4 million from last year. The bill also includes $155 million in emergency contingency funding to help States address spikes in unemployment claims.

The plan proposes $102.8 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Education - a $29.3 billion increase over FY21 enacted levels. This includes $65.6 billion for K-12 education and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act programs, an increase of $25 billion over the FY21 enacted level. It also proposes $36 billion for Title I funding to low-income school districts, an increase of $19.5 billion above the enacted level and $2.2 billion for career and technical education, an increase of $208 million.

Higher Education programs would receive $3.43 billion, an increase of $889 million over FY21 enacted levels. It also includes a $400 boost to the Pell Grant, which would bring the maximum award up to $6,895. Biden has said this is a down payment on his promise to double the maximum award, and the administration said it would be the largest one-time increase since 2009.

Lawmakers included $8 million for a Basic Needs Grants pilot program for college students to use on housing, food, transportation, and access to physical and mental health. And, the measure lists $5 million for the Distributed Higher Education Digital Infrastructure Pilot, a program that looks to support a collaboration between colleges with established remote learning infrastructure and minority-serving institutions.

The bill allows undocumented students protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to now be eligible for Pell Grants and other student financial assistance, including federal student loans.

House Democrats also include language to require for-profit colleges to derive more of their revenue from non-federal sources. And the bill would prevent federal funds from being awarded to charter schools run by for-profit entities.

House Democrats want to finish their appropriations work by the end of the month, but the Senate has yet to release any FY22 funding bills. Congress will most likely default to passing a continuing resolution before the fiscal year ends on September 30th to buy more time and avert a government shutdown.

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

Infrastructure Bill


In the coming weeks, final decisions will be made regarding the Democrats ‘two-track’ plan to pass President Biden’s jobs and families infrastructure plans via one bill that focuses on physical infrastructure and a second partisan plan focused on climate change, increasing child care and raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Senators in both parties are drafting a centrist bill for a July Senate vote. The Senate Budget Committee is expected to adopt a budget resolution in short order that would lay out the spending ceiling for the partisan plan and direct various committees to write the policy details. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has reiterated the goal of passing that budget resolution on the floor before August recess.

The White House has said it hopes to see the bipartisan infrastructure bill ready for floor consideration as early as the next two weeks, but lawmakers are still debating how to pay for the nearly $600 billion in new spending without imposing new taxes.

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth Grants

On Thursday, June 24, the U.S. Department of Education published a notice inviting applications in the Federal Register for a Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) - a new opportunity for greater flexibility in how localities use federal grant funds to serve disconnected youth. This is a unique initiative that removes federal requirements that are barriers to innovative solutions implemented by state, local, or Tribal governments to improve the outcomes of some of the nation’s most disadvantaged youth.

P3 enables state, local or Tribal government entities to obtain waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements that impede effective service delivery to disconnected youth or youth at risk of disconnecting. The P3 model also provides the ability to blend dollars from multiple federal funding streams to provide more comprehensive, holistic services for youth without having to allocate costs among the contributing programs and separately track and report on each source of funding. The flexibilities afforded by P3 can help states, local governments and Tribes address the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disconnected youth.

For example, in programs that limit services to youth of certain ages or that have time limits on participation, P3 can be used to extend the duration of an individual’s participation in a program as part of a larger strategy to compensate for the time and learning that youth lost to the pandemic. Examples of possible waivers are included in the Federal Register notice, and a list of waivers that have been previously granted for prior P3 pilots is located on the Youth.gov website.

P3 pilots must include at least two federal programs that target disconnected youth or that are designed to prevent youth from disconnecting and that provide education, training, employment, and other related social services. Disconnected youth are defined as “individuals between the ages of 14 and 24 who are low-income and either homeless, in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not enrolled in, or at risk of, dropping out of an educational institution.”

P3 programs can include discretionary youth-serving programs administered by the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. Entitlement programs such as Medicaid cannot be included in a P3 pilot.

The deadline for applications is August 23, 2021. If you have any questions about P3, please email DisconnectedYouth@ed.gov or call Corinne Sauri at (202) 260-2533 or Braden Goetz at (202) 245-7405.

Senate Confirmations

On Thursday, July 15, the Senate Labor Committee will vote on whether to advance three more of President Biden’s Department of Labor nominees to the chamber floor. Up for consideration are the nominations of David Weil to be administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, and of Gwynne Wilcox and David Prouty to be members of the National Labor Relations Board.

Lawmakers still have not confirmed President Biden’s nominee for deputy Labor Secretary, Julie Su, whose nomination was approved back in April. The Senate has finally filed cloture on her nomination - so the Senate should soon vote on her confirmation. Democrats are expected to have enough votes to advance her nomination despite their thin majority.

Pell Grants

The Department of Education has yet to act on reversing the Pell Grant restrictions on incarcerated individuals, and advocacy groups continue to pressure the agency to hurry up. Last December, Congress officially undid the ban on distribution of Pell Grants to prisoners through the passage of the FAFSA Simplification Act. Earlier this month, the Department received more than 1,300 comments in the Federal Register on its intention to establish negotiated rulemaking committees for proposed regulations for programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, including Pell Grant eligibility for prison education programs. Advocacy groups have urged the department to allow incarcerated students to get Pell Grants well ahead of its July 1, 2023 deadline.

House Hearing

On Friday, June 30, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development held the hearing “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” to discuss the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act (HR 1226), which would establish a corps to make an investment in small businesses. Members heard from experts about how this program could potentially help with economic recovery.

Click here to access the recording of the hearing.

Debt Limit Waiver

On Thursday, July 8, the Bipartisan Policy Center said that after the federal government's debt waiver expires on July 30, the default date will remain "particularly unpredictable," complicating negotiations on Capitol Hill to prevent an economically devastating lapse. The think tank is known for predicting the debt limit’s ‘X Date’ and said it still can’t narrow its estimate to a time frame more specific than ‘fall 2021.’ Shai Akabas, the center’s economic policy director, has said the challenges of accurately forecasting the pandemic’s lingering effects on the economy and the ongoing federal response means they may not have a clear picture until September, at which point Congress could have just weeks to act.

The Center’s estimate follows warnings from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who said late last month that Congress should act soon because it’s unclear how long federal officials can stave off default. The limit on the nation’s borrowing authority is suspended through month's end under the deal then-Secretary Steven Mnuchin struck two years ago with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After this month, the Treasury Department can deploy certain tactics to avoid missing payments or defaulting on the federal debt. But those measures may run out sooner than expected, the agency has warned. Lawmakers have acted more than two dozen times over the last three decades to avert default, usually with a clearer deadline in mind. Failure to act would throw the stock market into chaos, knock the government’s credit rating and increase costs for U.S. borrowers.

Unemployment Rate

On Friday, July 2, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the June jobs report, which indicated the U.S. economy added 850,000 new jobs last month and the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent. The report is viewed as a good sign for the economy more than one year into the pandemic as it was one of the largest number of jobs added in a month since last August. The job growth was widely in the industries that had been hard-hit by the pandemic - pointing to signs that the economy is growing back where it needs to recover the most. Employment jumped in the leisure and hospitality sector, with 343,000 jobs added, more than half in restaurants and bars. Hotels and other accommodations added about 75,000 jobs, as did arts, entertainment and recreation entities.

Click here to read the report.

Click here to read the statement from Secretary Walsh on the June jobs report.


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