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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - October 2, 2023

White House Releases Workforce Best Practice Playbook

Washington Update

Playbook: Workforce Investments That Work

On Friday, September 29, the White House and the U.S. Department of the Treasury released the playbook “Workforce Investments That Work: A State and Local Guide to High-Quality, Equitable Workforce Development” that identifies key evidence-based workforce development strategies that state and local governments are using to strengthen their workforces, grow their economies, and address barriers for underserved populations. The playbook highlights nine successful state and local initiatives that leveraged support from the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) program. The SLFRF delivers $350 billion in direct aid to state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to support immediate pandemic recovery and long-term economic growth.

The Treasury Department is lifting up these initiatives to show how SLFRF funds can be used to support and expand the workforce — including support for childcare, which enables more parents to enter and remain in the workforce. To date, communities have budgeted more than $11 billion in SLFRF resources for workforce investments.

Click here to access the press release and playbook.

EPA Grant Opportunity

On Monday, September 25, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availabiltiy of over $20 million in grant funding to help support training and career opportunities in the water sector. The funding is through the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workfroce Development program, which aims to build a strong pool of skilled and diverse workers in the water and wastewater utilities sector. This grant program supports collaboration among federal, state, and local governments with institutions of higher education, apprentice programs, labor organizations, high schools, and other community-based organizations to provide access to workforce opportunities and build career pipelines in the water sector. The water industry has been facing widespread shortages of qualified workers and current estimates indicate that as many as one third of water workers will be eligible for retirement within the next 5-10 years.

Click here to learn more about grant program.

Tax-Free Pell Grant Act

On Wednesday, September 27, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Chuck Grassley (IA) introduced the bipartisan Tax-Free Pell Grant Act that aims to make it easier for students receiving Pell grants to get the maximum benefits by better coordinating with higher education tax incentives. Under current tax code, many qualifying students are not able to access full benefits of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Pell Grant program. The legislation would erase all tax liabilities tied to Pell Grants and get rid of requirements that prevent recipients from claiming their full AOTC amount. Despite broad bipartisan support, it still is not clear what the path forward is for the bill.

Click here to read a press release about the legislation.

Gainful Employment Rule

On Wednesday, September 27, the U.S. Department of Education released final regulations establish safeguards against unaffordable debt or insufficient earnings for postsecondary students. There are two key parts of the final regulations - a revitalized Gainful Employement rule (GE) and a new Financial Value Transparency framework. Under the gainful-employment rule, programs at for-profit institutions, as well as non degree programs in any sector, will have to show that graduates can afford their loan payments and that they are making more than an adult in their state who did not pursue postsecondary education. The financial value transparency measures will apply to all programs in any sector but don’t affect financial aid eligibility. The Department of Education estimates about 400 graduate programs that enroll roughly 120,000 students would be subject to the new disclosure requirement. Both will go into effect on July 1, 2024, with the first official financial outcome rates published in early 2025. Programs that fail the same GE metric in the first two years the rates are issued will become ineligible for federal student aid programs in 2026.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click here to access the fact sheet.

OPM Skills-Based Hiring Resource

On Tuesday, September 26, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the Federal Workforce Competency Initiative (FWCI) General Competencies and Competency Models to help agencies implement skills-based hiring, as well as improve training, development and workforce planning programs. The resource provides a list of competencies required for various positions that agencies can reference when considering hiring a person based on their skill set. The effort took over two years to complete the general skills needed for over 80 occupational series across the federal government, and survey results from over 90,000 federal employees and supervisors from more than 300 job series. Skills-based hiring is a bipartisan effort as it is a priority of President Biden’s Management Agenda and also builds on a 2020 Executive Order issued by then President Donald Trump.

Click here to access the FWCI.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending September 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 204,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 201,000 to 202,000. The 4-week moving average was 211,000, a decrease of 6,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 217,000 to 217,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week ending September 16, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the full report.

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