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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - July 24, 2023

Senate Focuses on Short-Term Pell


Washington Update


Short-Term Pell

On Thursday, July 27, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark up the bipartisan JOBS Act (S 161), sponsored by Senators Tim Kaine (VA) and Mike Braun (IN), which includes Pell Grant program expansion to cover short-term training programs. The legislation would allow students to use Pell Grants to cover the costs of training programs at community or technical colleges that are as short as eight weeks long - currently it is limited to programs that run for at least 15 weeks. It would exclude for-profit colleges from being eligible to participate in the expansion, which is an important provision for Democrats.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) considers expanding Pell to cover short-term workforce programs a priority. Earlier this year, the GOP unveiled their proposal that would allow all types of institutions to participate in the program. The Committee’s ranking member Congressman Bobby Scott (VA) also released a proposal that would include for-profit colleges but include more stringent eligibility criteria. The programs, among other things, would have to show that their graduates end up earning more than a high school graduate in their state and boost earnings by at least 20 percent. This is the 118th Congress’ first major legislative activity with significant bipartisan support. The Committee will also consider several other pieces of legislation that address apprenticeships and job training programs.

Click here to access the Committee website.

Appropriations

House Republicans are starting to send spending bills to the House floor - moving forward with deeper cuts than were negotiated in the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement. On Wednesday, July 19, House Freedom Caucus members met to trim the bills to get the spending bills as close to the FY22 level of $1.471 trillion as possible with several members objecting to the House Appropriations Committee’s allowing $115 billion in spending above FY22. House Republicans have sent 10 out of the 12 spending bills to the floor with just the Labor-HHS- Education and Commerce-Justice- Science bills, two of the largest and most controversial, awaiting full committee approval. House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (CT) commented that those bills might be ‘too toxic to clear that key hurdle.’ The last two bills appear to be causing problems with spending cuts to job training programs, law enforcement issues, rescissions, and policy riders that complicate a full committee vote.

On Thursday, July 27, the Senate spending panel is set to mark up the Defense, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, and Homeland Security spending measures. Last week, the committee approved State-Foreign Operations, Energy-Water and Transportation- HUD.

Su Confirmation

Days after a White House official publicly urged Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Simena (AZ) to change their position on Julie Su’s confirmation, the Administration appears to have stalled its efforts to confirm Su for Secretary of Labor and plan to leave her as acting Labor Secretary indefinitely. On Thursday, July 20, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (LA) demanded the Administration withdraw Su’s nomination, which has been sitting in limbo for a record-setting 126 days. Under the federal Vacancies Act, acting secretaries are able to serve no more than 210 days before being confirmed, but in his letter Cassidy claims a separate Labor Department rule was allowing Su to unlawfully serve ‘in perpetuity’ and without Senate approval. Also on Thursday, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) representative confirmed the agency opened a review to clarify the acting secretary’s legal authority, which was requested by House Education and Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) earlier this month.


It seems that Senate HELP Committee Chair Bernie Sanders still wants a floor vote on Su while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) says he is working to confirm her, but it is still unclear whether or not a vote will happen and what Su’s fate will be.

Click here to access Senator Cassidy’s letter.

The Primary Care and Health Workforce Expansion Act

On Wednesday, July 20, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Chair Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced The Primary Care and Health Workforce Expansion Act, which would overhaul the country’s primary health care system. The bill would reauthorize a number of federal health programs and expand training of primary care doctors and other clinicians. Sanders said the legislation pushes for investments in health care services, bolsters the provider workforce, and saves the health system money over time by increasing access to preventive, primary and mental health care. Senate Republicans have already spoken out against the legislation, saying it has ‘irresponsible’ increases in funding. Top-line funding items include $8.3 billion across five years for the National Health Service Corps, extensions of hundreds of millions in expansions for physician Graduate Medical Education programs, a $400 million per year grant program for associate’s degree nursing programs and millions for other grant program funds related to training dentists, behavioral health workers and family caregivers. The Senate HELP Committee will hold a mark up of the legislation on Wednesday, July 26.

Click here to access a Section by Section view of the bill.

Click here to access the full bill.

Click here to access Senator Sanders’ press release.

SNAP Work Requirements

On Tuesday, July 18, House Agriculture Committee Chair G.T. Thompson (PA) said he doesn’t expect expanded work requirements for federal food assistance to be in the upcoming farm bill. Thompson said he believes the debt ceiling legislation that included new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients ages 50 to 54 without children ‘was a lot of good work’ and he didn’t see a way forward to include additional requirements in the bill.

Pathways to Health Careers Act

On Friday, July 21, House Ways and Means Committee Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Ranking Member Danny K. David (IL) led a group of lawmakers in reintroducing the Pathways to Health Careers Act (HR 4783), which would reauthorize and modernize the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) program to better support low-income workers as they receive training and education for high-demand health care careers.

Click here to read the full press release.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Hearing

On Thursday, July 27, at 10:15 am ET the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, chaired by Congressman Burgess Owens (UT) will hold the hearing “Lowering Costs and Increasing Value for Students, Institutions, and Taxpayers.” The hearing will examine how a market-based approach to accountability can help lower college costs, hold institutions accountable, and provide students and taxpayers with a greater return on their investment.

Click here to learn more about accessing a livestream of the hearing.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending July 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 228,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 237,000. The 4-week moving average was 237,500, a decrease of 9,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 246,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending July 8, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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