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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - July 31, 2023

Senate Passes Labor-HHS Funding Bill; White House Releases Strategy to Address Cyber Workforce Needs


Washington Update


Appropriations

On Thursday, July 27, in a vote of 26-2, Senate Appropriations Committee members passed the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which provides $13.5 billion in discretionary funding to the Department of Labor for FY24. This level is a small decrease from current funding levels of $13.6 billion, but more than the $9.8 billion — a 30 percent reduction — in the House spending bill released a couple of weeks ago. The legislation provides the Department of Education with $79.6 billion in discretionary funding for FY24, keeping the agency funded at roughly the same level as the current year. In the Senate spending bill, the maximum Pell Grant award would see an increase of $250 for a total of $7,645 for the 2024-2025 school year. The Hawkins program, which supports teacher preparation, would get $15 million. Title I funding would get a $175 million increase. The bill also holds funding for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) steady at $299 million, whereas the House bill proposes massive cuts to the agency.

On Tuesday, July 25, several conservative members of the House warned Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA) that the 12 spending bills should reflect FY22 levels and no rescissions, reminding the Speaker that he needs their votes to pass the measures so should listen to their requests. Those same six lawmakers said they want to see revamped versions of all 12 spending bills before moving forward, not just a couple per week. On Thursday, July 27, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (LA) announced Friday votes were no longer taking place with the final vote being this Thursday afternoon on Military Construction-VA before the August recess. Republican leaders called off debate on the Agriculture-FDA bill - pushing back any passage on the other 11 spending bills until September.

Also on Thursday, Senate Appropriators approved the last of their 12 FY24 spending measures. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chair Jon Tester (MT) said lawmakers can anticipate a supplemental spending request on Ukraine from the Administration next month.

Click here to read Senators Murray and Collins joint statements on passing all 12 appropriations bills out of committee.

Department of Labor Succession Act

On Thursday, July 27, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chair Kevin Kiley (CA) introduced the Department of Labor Succession Act (HR 4957), which clarifies federal law to ensure the tenure of an Acting Secretary of Labor aligns with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. The legislation takes aim at current Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su and is a tactic Republicans hope will officially limit her time in her current role. The Administration has expressed that Su can continue to legally serve as Acting Secretary.

Several business groups, such as the Flex Association and Job Creators Network, have also been outspoken regarding their opposition to Su remaining Acting Secretary indefinitely. They have raised constitutional concerns about her remaining in the position. One result of challenging Su’s legitimacy could be to invalidate actions taken by the Department of Labor - such as regulations regarding gig workers, independent contractors or other issues - with opposition arguing the regulation was signed by someone who did not have authority to serve.

Click here to access the press release on the bill.

National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy

On Monday, July 31, the White House unveiled its National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES) to address cyber workforce shortages, which the Administration deems a national security imperative. The NCWES is a national effort to support and scale local ecosystems for cyber education and workforce development. The four pillars it seeks to build upon include equipping every American with foundational cyber skills; transforming cyber education; expanding and enhancing the National Cyber Workforce; and strengthening the Federal Cyber Workforce. The Administration is hoping to increase cyber jobs through collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and adopting skills-based hiring and workforce development. The goal of the strategy is not only to increase the number of cyber professionals but to also enhance cyber skills and literacy in jobs throughout the economy.

The National Science Foundation plans to invest over $24 million in CyberCorps for scholarships awards over the next four years. The National Security Agency’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program released four grants to support a pilot initiative to develop four new Cyber Clinics at accredited U.S. colleges and universities in Nevada, Minnesota, Louisiana and Virginia. The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded up to $3.6 million for Regional Alliances and Multistakeholder Partnerships to Stimulate Cybersecurity Education and Workforce Development projects. The Department of Labor announced a $65 million award in formula and competitive grants to 45 states and territories to develop and scale registered apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity and other critical sectors.

Click here to access the full fact sheet on the NCWES.

Raise the Wage Act

On Tuesday, July 25, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chair Bernie Sanders (VT) and House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA) introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would phase in a $17 minimum wage nationwide and curtail the use of lower pay rates for tipped workers and people with disabilities. The legislation initially boosts the federal minimum wage to $9.50 an hour and tacks on an additional $1.50 each year until it reaches $17. It also includes a mechanism for the Department of Labor to set future increases, as a safeguard against long periods of congressional inaction. Under the bill, the tipped wage, which can be as low as $2.13 an hour, will eventually be eliminated. The likelihood of the bill passing the Republican-controlled House is very slim. Several Senate Democrats have even publicly voted against raising the minimum wage - giving the bill even lower prospects of advancing.

Click here to access a press release on the legislation.

Registered Apprenticeships for Educators

On Thursday, July 27, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education announced a series of efforts to increase teacher apprenticeships and increase federal investments in teacher preparation programs. The announcement includes new National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards (NGS) for Registered Apprenticeships for K-12 teachers developed by The Pathways Alliance, which is a coalition of groups dedicated to teacher preparation programs. The voluntary standards, which support programs for aspiring teachers to get credentialed with on-the-job training, have been approved for local use by the Department of Labor. The Department of Education will award approximately $27 million to support two educator preparation programs. The Department of Labor will award $65 million in apprenticeship expansion grant funds to develop and scale programs in critical sectors across 45 states - with 35 targeting education.

Click here to access the full press release.

Unlocking Pathways Summit Series

On Tuesday, July 25, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the launch of the Unlocking Pathways Summit series, which is part of its Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative. The series, in partnership with the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Labor, and Transportation, aims to increase and expand access to high-quality career pathways to help the nation’s youth pursue jobs in high-demand fields and prepare for careers of the future. The series is co-hosted by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and will consist of four regional education-workforce convenings to highlight workforce priorities and opportunities for young people in high-growth industries. The series will begin in Renton, Washington, where it will feature construction and infrastructure pathway opportunities and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The second stop is Aurora, Colorado to highlight clean energy pathways and the Inflation Reduction Act. The third stop is Madison, Wisconsin for a focus on CHIPS and Science Act investments and it will conclude in Biloxi, Mississippi with a discussion on technology and cybersecurity.

Click here to access the press release on the series and learn more.

H-1B Visas

Last week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will be conducting a second-round selection for the H-1B temporary work visa lottery for FY24. The agency determined it would need to select additional H-1B applicants to reach the cap for FY24. The lottery will most likely be conducted in the next week with roughly 20,000-25,000 H-1B petitioners to be selected.

Senate HELP Committee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has postponed markup of bipartisan legislation to expand high-quality economic opportunities for workers across the country through apprenticeships and other workforce development programs. Last Thursday, July 27, the Committee was set to markup several bills, including the JOBS Act, The National Apprenticeship Act, The Youth Apprenticeship Advancement Act, and The Gateways to Careers Act, but postponed markup to a yet to be determined date.

House Education & the Workforce Committee

On Thursday, July 27, the House Education & the Workforce Committee Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee held the hearing “Lowering Costs and Increasing Value for Students, Institutions, and Taxpayers.” Witness hearings included: Michael B. Horn, Author and Co-Founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation; Stig Leschly, President and Founder of Postsecondary Commission; Dr. Stephanie Cellni, Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration, and of Economics, at George Washington University; and Dr. Andrew Gillen, Senior Policy Analyst at Texas Public Policy Foundation. The hearing focused on the rising cost of college with lawmakers from both parties discussing their respective legislative proposals to lower costs and hold colleges accountable for poor outcomes.

Click here to access a recording of the hearing.

Privacy Enhancing Technology Research Act

On Thursday, July 27, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed six bipartisan bills in full committee markup, one of which was the Privacy Enhancing Technology Research Act. This legislation authorizes research, workforce development, and standards-setting activities at the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology for privacy-enhancing technologies and calls for government coordination for the development of PETs to ensure responsible data use.

Click here to learn more about the legislation.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending July 22, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 221,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 228,000. The 4-week moving average was 233,750, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 237,500. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending July 15, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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