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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - March 6th, 2023

Biden to Unveil Budget in Philadelphia

Washington Update

Budget and Appropriations

Late last night, the White House announced that President Joe Biden will unveil his FY24 budget proposal to Congress on Thursday, March 9, at a campaign-style event held at a union hall in Philadelphia. The highlight of the FY24 proposal is a pledge to cut $2 trillion from the government's deficit over 10 years, and extend the life of the Medicare health benefit program by at least two decades.

Biden is also planning to revive his plans to increase taxes on billionaires and fund initiatives like a child tax credit. A proposal to raise payroll taxes on the very wealthy is also part of the equation — with the president planning to stand by his 2020 campaign pledge not to raise rates on Americans making less than $400,000 a year. The budget proposal is unlikely to be enacted as proposed, given Republican control of the U.S. House, but serves as an outline of the president’s priorities.

On Thursday, March 2, Senate appropriators met privately to discuss next steps after President Biden releases his budget. Appropriators in attendance said there was bipartisan agreement to follow ‘regular order’ and avoid a year-end omnibus. Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Susan Collins (ME) said appropriators are open to passing spending bills on the floor in smaller bundles, such as two- or three ‘minibuses’ to help speed passage of FY24. Appropriators also said they want to reach agreement on overall defense and non-defense funding levels as soon as possible so they can commence writing and marking up bills.

Health Worker Shortage

On Thursday, March 2, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (VT) and ranking member Bill Cassidy (LA) sent a letter to stakeholders asking for input on the core issues surrounding and solutions for the health workforce shortage. In the letter, Sanders and Cassidy said they plan to use the input from providers to create bipartisan legislation to boost workforce capacity. Workforce legislation has been a bipartisan issue of focus for many lawmakers in recent years. The letter sets Monday, March 20, as a deadline for responses.

Click here to access the letter.

Labor Secretary

On Tuesday, February 28, President Joe Biden announced his nomination of current Department of Labor Deputy Director, Julie Su, to be Labor Secretary. Current Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will be vacating the position in mid-March to assume the role of executive director for the National Hockey League Players’ Association. Su is already in line to be acting Labor Secretary upon Walsh’s department. If confirmed, she would be the Administration’s first AAPI Cabinet secretary.

Prior to DOL, she worked as labor secretary for Governor Gavin Newson. During that time she sparked controversy over the rollout of the state’s divisive gig work law that established a three-part test that redefined many of the state’s gig workers as employees. Her confirmation is likely to be a tough fight in the Senate - in 2021 she was confirmed 50-47 with no Republican support. This time around she will undergo even more scrutiny, including the handling of the freight rail labor standoff last year, in which she played a pivotal role. The nomination could potentially be impacted by Senator John Fetterman’s (PA) absence while he receives inpatient treatment at Walter Reed with his return to Congress remaining uncertain.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders initially expressed his support for flight attendants union leader Sara Nelson, but said he intends to move forward with Su’s nomination as soon as possible and expressed confidence in her ability for the role.

CHIPS Funding Opportunity

On Tuesday, February 28, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (Commerce) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), launched the first CHIPS for America funding opportunity for manufacturing incentives. The funding aims to revitalize the domestic semiconductor industry, support good-paying jobs and advance U.S. economic and national security. Commerce is overseeing $50 billion to revitalize the U.S. semiconductor industry, including $39 billion in semiconductor incentives as part of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act.

The same day, CHIPS for America released a “Vision for Success” that lays out strategic objectives to advance U.S. economic and national security, such as: (1) make the U.S. home to at least two, new large-scale clusters of leading-edge logic chip fabs, (2) make the U.S. home to multiple, high-volume advanced packaging facilities, (3) produce high-volume leading-edge memory chips, and (4) increase production capacity for current-generation and mature-node chips, especially for critical domestic industries.

One of the key priorities for the CHIPS for America program is building a skilled and diverse workforce, which is critical to strengthening the U.S. semiconductor ecosystem. Companies seeking CHIPS funding will be required to submit workforce development plans for the workers who will operate their facilities and the workers who will build them, including plans to meet the Department of Commerce’s and the Department of Labor’s Good Jobs Principles. Applicants requesting over $150 million in direct funding must also submit plans to provide both their facility and construction workers with access to affordable, accessible, reliable, and high-quality child care. In addition, applicants are strongly encouraged to use project labor agreements for construction projects.

Click here to access the press release on the funding.

Click here to access the Vision for Success.

Click here to access the Workforce Development Fact Sheet.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending February 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 190,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 192,000. The 4-week moving average was 193,000, an increase of 1,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 191,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending February 18, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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