WIOA Reauthorization Hearing Focuses
On Thursday, May 13, the House Education and Labor Committee started its bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The panel will focus on three main areas: youth employment, displaced workers, and workforce reentry. Thursday morning, lawmakers heard testimony from experts on the state of youth employment. There are two additional hearings scheduled to hear from experts on displaced workers and workforce reentry.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree there is a need to reauthorize WIOA, especially since the pandemic has forced an overhaul of the U.S. job market and has heightened the need to address job training, but the parties differ on spending. The pandemic recession has particularly harmed in-person, low-income jobs and these workers need to acquire the skills necessary to transition into a new job or industry. According to one report, around 40 percent of workers will require training of six months or less to learn new skills. Meanwhile, Congress has enacted just $345 million in relief funds for workforce development since the start of the pandemic.
Congress will likely be unable to do a comprehensive overhaul of all of the existing programs because the interagency spread means there are conflicting committee jurisdictions – hence why lawmakers are focusing efforts on WIOA reauthorization. According to committee staff, a major focus of reauthorization will be to match the bill’s intent with its implementation. Lawmakers will also work to improve Jobs Corps, which provides education and vocational training to those between the ages of 16 and 24, by updating outdated language authorizing the program.
Click here to access information about the hearing.
On Wednesday, May 12, President Joe Biden hosted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to discuss next steps on an infrastructure package. This was the first time the President met in person with the ‘Big 4’ but the hours-long meeting seemed to accomplish very little. Following the meeting, McConnell said there is a ‘bipartisan desire to get an outcome’ but the two sides still have a long way to go. McConnell suggested the GOP might consider a package between $600 - $800 billion, but even $800 billion likely will not be enough for Democrats - as Biden’s plan tops $2 trillion.
Connecting Youth to Jobs Act
On Friday, May 14, Congressman Chuy Garcia (IL), along with several other colleagues, introduced the Connecting Youth to Jobs Act, which creates a nationwide subsidized jobs program for young people facing barriers to employment and historically disadvantaged youth. The bill also offers $10 billion in grants for community organizations, labor unions, tribal organizations and other nonprofits, and partnerships to provide direct financial assistance for support services that help youth overcome barriers to sustained employment. These support services may include housing, health care, transportation, child care, access to technology, and more.
Click here to read a press release on the bill.
Click here to access a fact sheet of the bill.
On Tuesday, May 11, Republicans introduced two proposals to reform federal pandemic unemployment benefits, which they believe has been a deterrent from individuals getting back to work. The National Signing Bonus Act, introduced by Senator Ben Sasse (NE), would convert the last two months of extra UI benefits into a signing bonus for anyone who got a job by July 4. Workers would get the bonus in two lump-sum payments if they are able to demonstrate that they kept a job with the same employer for eight weeks. The second legislation, Get Americans Back to Work Act, would decrease the $300 additional weekly payment offered under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program to $150 per week on May 31, and then phase out the benefit entirely at the end of June.
Click here to read the press release on the National Signing Bonus Act.
Click here to read the press release on the Get Americans Back to Work Act.
On Tuesday, May 11, the Senate voted 54-44 to confirm Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego public schools, as deputy secretary of education. Marten is the number 2 official at the Department of Education and oversees K-12 education issues and works with state and local school officials. Six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote in favor of Marten’s nomination: Senators Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Susan Collins (ME), Chuck Grassley (IA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH). Marten is the second Biden education nominee to be approved by the Senate, following Miguel Cardona’s confirmation as secretary in March.
Last month, the HELP committee advanced the nomination of James Kvaal to serve as undersecretary of education, the number 3 spot at the agency that oversees higher education. Cardona earlier this month appointed Rich Cordray to lead the department’s Office of Federal Student Aid, a key appointment that does not require Senate confirmation. Biden has also nominated former Congresswoman Gwen Graham (FL) to serve as the assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs. The White House has not yet announced nominees for the 11 remaining vacant Senate-confirmable posts at the agency.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
On Friday, May 14, the House of Representatives passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in a vote of 315-101. The legislation, which was passed last year with the support of more than 100 Republicans, would require employers to reasonably accommodate workers and job applicants who need accommodations due to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. It will now be considered by the Senate, where it has a more uncertain future but supporters of the bill are more confident in it passing this Congress. Earlier last week a bipartisan group of six senators unveiled a companion measure in that chamber, which is a positive sign.
Click here to learn more about the bill.
Initial Jobless Rate
In the week ending May 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 473,000, a decrease of 34,000 from the previous week's revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 9,000 from 498,000 to 507,000. The 4-week moving average was 534,000, a decrease of 28,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 2,250 from 560,000 to 562,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending May 1, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate.
Click here to access the full report.