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ADVOCACY & POLICY UPDATE - October 30, 2023

White House Asks Congress for Funding on Critical Domestic Priorities, Including Child Care

Washington Update

Appropriations/House Speaker

On Wednesday, October 25, Republicans elected Congressman Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House and he already seems to have a plan to avoid a November 17 government shutdown - saying the House should pass a stopgap spending bill through January 15 or April 15, whichever gets the most support, in order to finalize a the dozen FY24 funding bills. The House will start with the Energy-Water bill then move to the Legislative Branch, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD. Johnson said the Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science bills should be discharged from the Appropriations Committee in the interest of time and suggested the GOP form a working group to hash out lingering problems with the Agriculture-FDA bill. With a new speaker in place, House conservatives don’t seem as insistent on the $115 billion in cuts to FY24 funding as they once were under McCarthy’s leadership.

Also on Wednesday, the Upper Chamber approved a large slate of amendments to its three-bill minibus spending package. This comes following a deal struck on Tuesday by Senate leaders to speed up passage of the $280 billion minibus, which combines FY24 spending bills for Agriculture-FDA, Military-Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD. An amendment from Senator J.D. Vance (OH) that bans federal mask mandates passed in a 59-38 vote.

Child Care Funding

On Wednesday, October 25, the Biden-Harris Administration requested Congress provide $16 billion in funding support for the child care industry as part of a larger supplemental request for domestic priorities. On September 30, $24 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) child care stabilization funds ran out and $15 billion in COVID-19 child care funding has a spending deadline of September 2023, which will leave the already struggling sector in even more peril. In September, a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act to extend federal child care stabilization funding to ensure that child care providers can continue serving children and families after the $24 billion in American Rescue Plan child care stabilization funding runs out. The legislation would provide $16 billion in mandatory funding each year for the next five years to continue the Child Care Stabilization Grant program and ensure providers continue to receive a stable and reliable source of funding to help them deliver high-quality and affordable child care services.

The request also includes more than $50 billion for disaster relief, including $220 million for wildland firefighter pay. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (WA) said supplemental legislation should be passed that includes both domestic and national security priorities. The request will face resistance in the GOP-controlled House as Republicans are hesitant to allocate federal funds to address the issue.

Department of Labor Confirmation

On Wednesday, October 25, on a vote of 51-46, the Senate confirmed Jessica Looman as head of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, which she had been informally leading. In her informal role, Looman has overseen the rollout of a new overtime rule, implementation of higher construction worker wages and ongoing rulemaking on who should be considered an independent contractor. She faces a decline in investigative enforcement staffing and nearly guaranteed pushback from conservatives on issues including worker classification. Previously, Looman was executive director of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, a union coalition. Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su hasn’t received a Senate floor vote more than 220 days after it received her nomination.

Initial Jobless Rate

In the week ending October 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 210,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 198,000 to 200,000. The 4-week moving average was 207,500, an increase of 1,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 205,750 to 206,250. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week ending October 14, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.

Click here to access the report.

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