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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - October 23, 2023

Administration Designates 31 Tech Hubs Across U.S.


Washington Update


Appropriations/House Speaker

The November 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown is only four weeks away and Congress has barely seen any progress due to the paralysis in the House over electing a new Speaker. In the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans have urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) to begin bringing up their spending bills for floor votes, as the Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved all the bills with bipartisan support. Senate Appropriations Committee members reached agreement on amendment vote thresholds for the minibus — which combines three of the 12 appropriations bills — last week. Senators could try again this week to move the minibus, which combines the Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD bills, after working towards resolution on this one final hurdle.

Additionally, the Biden Administration has requested more than $61 billion for Ukraine, more than $14 billion each for Israel and the southern border, and about $10 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Israel and Gaza. This past weekend, several senators, including Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Susan Collins (ME), went to Israel to assess the situation. It was also announced that Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) is joining the Senate Appropriations Committee, but her subcommittee placements will be decided later.

Tech Hubs Designations

On Monday, October 23, the Biden-Administration announced the designation of 31 “Tech Hubs” in regions across the nation. This is the first phase of the new Tech Hubs program, an economic development initiative designed to drive regional innovation and job creation by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy technology that will advance American competitiveness. The program is authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act and administered by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Click here to read the full press release.

House Education and Workforce Committee

On Friday, October 20, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (NC) sent a letter to Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su requesting that the Department of Labor extend its comment period on a proposed overtime rule that will negatively impact workers, students, small business owners, nonprofits, and more.

Click here to access the Chairwoman Foxx’s letter.

Also, House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chair, Congressman Kevin Kiley, is postponing the hearing titled “Bad For Business: DOL’s Proposed Overtime Rule,” originally scheduled for Tuesday, October 24, until further notice. Click here to learn more about the hearing.

Visa Pilot Programs

Federal officials are one step closer to bringing back the stateside issuance of nonimmigrant visas, which would allow H-1B and L-1 workers the option of renewing their visas without leaving the U.S. On Tuesday, October 17, the pilot program that would put this change into effect officially went to the White House for review, which is one of the final steps before implementation. If soon finalized as expected, it would not only help foreign nationals but also make a key strategic difference for employers.

In June 2023, President Biden and India Prime Minister Narendra said in a joint statement they ‘welcomed’ the announcement of the pilot program, underscoring the importance of easing backlogs for H-1B workers from India in particular. Immigration advocates have also supported stateside renewals. Since 2004, workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas have had to go abroad to renew them.

Also, on Friday, October 13, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed its review of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposal entitled “Modernizing H-1B Requirements and Oversight and Providing Flexibility in the F-1 Program.” This is expected to provide more flexibility for startups and measures to reduce fraud, among other changes.

Click here to access the USCIS proposal.

Creating Early Childhood Leaders Act

On Wednesday, October 18, Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Mitt Romney (UT) reintroduced the Creating Early Childhood Leaders Act to help school leaders with training early childhood educators. The legislation would require school leadership programs that receive federal Teacher Quality Partnership grants to include training on early childhood development and effective instructional leadership for children from birth to 8 years old. The bill would also ensure that school leaders are prepared to support pre-kindergarten educators in developing appropriate teaching materials and help pre-kindergarten students transition from early to elementary education.

Click here to read a press release on the bill.

Department of Education

The Office of Correctional Education, in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), will host a Correctional Education Webinar Series entitled Pipeline to Pell. The webinar series focuses on advancing state and local implementation of inclusive, supportive, comprehensive, and high-quality correctional education programs that meet the diverse needs of students. The webinar sessions will provide participants with information, resources, and noteworthy practices in providing confined or incarcerated students with career-connected prison education programs.

The first webinar in the Pipeline to Pell series will be held on Thursday, November 2 at 11:00 am ET. The webinar will focus on the FAFSA Simplification Act, Pell Grants and Prison Education Programs. The second webinar in the series will be held on Wednesday, November 15 at 3:00 pm ET and will focus on The Roles of States, Localities, and other Relevant Stakeholders.

Click here to learn more and register for the November 2 webinar.

Click here to learn more and register for the November 15 webinar.

SNAP

On Wednesday, October 18, a bicameral group of lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack urging the Administration to issue guidance clarifying Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility for higher education students, and requesting a briefing from the two agencies within the next 60 days. Currently, most college students who are enrolled half-time or more are ineligible for benefits unless they meet narrow requirements. There’s a legislative effort to make expanded SNAP eligibility permanent by removing the prohibition on college students receiving food assistance.

Click here to access the letter.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending October 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 198,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 209,000 to 211,000. The 4-week moving average was 205,750, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 206,250 to 206,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending October 7, unchanged from the previous week's revised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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