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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - May 6, 2024

Sanders to Run for Forth Term


Washington Update


Appropriations

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (CT) said she has no idea when the lower chamber will begin marking up spending bills for FY25. Congressional offices spent last week scrambling to submit their programmatic language and earmark requests and there is no bipartisan agreement on overall defense and nondefense funding totals, let alone each individual bill. House appropriations leaders have broken the earmark request window into two deadlines with requests for Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, Homeland Security, and Military Construction-VA having been midnight Friday, May 3. Lawmakers trying to request community project funding in Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment and Transportation-HUD will now have until just before midnight on May 10. 

House Appropriations Chair Tom Cole (OK) released new guidance on the request process on Thursday, April 25 — giving House lawmakers a narrow window. Cole also released guidance barring nonprofits from hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for economic development projects in the Transportation-HUD bill — including senior centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, religious organizations and veterans groups. Last week, Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) said she intends to mark up bills without detailing a timeframe.


The Apprenticeship Opportunity Act

On Friday, May 3, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA) introduced The Apprenticeship Opportunity Act, which is aimed at boosting participation in apprenticeship programs by pushing states to ensure that welfare benefits can be accessed at the same time. The bill would require states that receive grants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to exclude an individual’s first year of income from an apprenticeship program when determining their need for assistance.

Click here to access the press release on the bill.

Click here to read the full bill.


Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee 

Senator Bernie Sanders, current Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, will be seeking a fourth term this fall.  The Vermont independent, who has twice run for President of the United States, is currently at the top of his power in Congress as he strives to push a progressive agenda to address worker shortages and healthcare inequities.


House Education and the Workforce Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, May 1, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su testified at the House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Department of Labor.” Su fielded several intense questions from Republican lawmakers about her agency’s finalized regulations reining in employers and their relationship with workers, as well as her having led DOL for over a year on an acting basis. 

Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC) expressed frustration with Su and the Department’s perceived lack of cooperation on congressional oversight inquiries and vowed to issue a subpoena in the coming weeks if the agency does not turn over its return-to-office plan for DOL staff by May 6. Foxx tied the issue to the Biden administration’s request to increase DOL’s funding by more than $315 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Su defended her ability to serve — pointing to a fall Government Accountability Office report that said her elevation was valid — and said DOL has worked to comply with the committee’s requests.

Click here to access a video of the hearing.


White House State Workforce Day Convening

On Friday, May 3, the Biden-Harris Administration convened state leaders — along with representatives from workforce policy and advocacy organizations, unions, federal agencies, and other stakeholders — to discuss states’ efforts to expand investments in students and workers that lead to good jobs in high-demand sectors. At the convening, senior Administration officials including Neera Tanden, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Mala Adiga, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy for the First Lady, heard from leaders representing a dozen states about model programs to lower costs, expand quality job training for students and workers, and better connect education and workforce systems.  They also heard how states are braiding together federal and state investments, and how the Biden-Harris Administration can continue to support states’ efforts in this regard. 

Administration officials called on states to invest at least 0.5% of their eligible federal highway formula funds, which total nearly $50 billion per year, to expand and diversify their construction workforces. States can follow the examples of Maryland and Pennsylvania by investing highway funds in high-quality workforce approaches such as registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, as well as supportive services like child care and transportation assistance for workers.

Click here to access the press release of the event.


White House National Cyber Workforce Convening

On Monday, April 29, the White House Office of the National Cyber Director hosted a first-of-its-kind convening where representatives from more than 30 companies and institutions representing a dozen industries committed to expanding opportunities for Americans and building a strong cyber workforce. The event focused on creating pathways for more Americans to enter the growing field of cybersecurity through practices like skill-based hiring and earn-and-learn opportunities such as apprenticeships. More than 500,000 cybersecurity positions are currently open across the country. 

National Cyber Director Harry Coker, Jr. announced that the Biden-Harris Administration will overhaul the federal hiring process to become fully skills-based for an entire series of technical employees. Thanks to work by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government will transition the Information Technology Management series, known as the 2210 series, to skills-based hiring principles and practices.  The 2210 job series represents IT workers in every federal agency and a majority of the federal IT workforce accounting for nearly 100,000 current federal employees. The framework will take effect next summer.

Click here to read the press release on the event.


Unemployment Rate

On Friday, May 3, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the April unemployment report, which showed the U.S. labor market added 175,000 jobs last month - fewer than the 240,000 expected from the Dow Jones consensus. The unemployment increased to 3.9% from 3.8%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2% from the previous month and 3.9% from a year ago, both below consensus estimates and an encouraging sign for inflation. It is still too early to expect that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates before September as the labor market remains fairly tight.

Click here to access the report.

Click here to read Acting Secretary of Labor Su’s statement on the April jobs report.

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