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Advocacy & Policy Update - February 1, 2021




COVID-19 Relief Legislation

House Democrats plan to introduce a budget resolution as early as today, with the hopes of a floor vote on Wednesday, February 3, that would pave the way for a simple-majority Senate vote on President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) has said the Senate will also vote on the bill without GOP support, if necessary. For Democrats to pass another relief bill without Republican support, reconciliation —which will let the bill pass bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster —is required. Democrats need to first pass a budget resolution that provides instructions to committees for drafting legislation, which Senator Dick Durbin (IL) said Democrats are considering taking up this week. Ideally, Democrats would like a sixth relief bill passed before emergency expanded unemployment benefits expire in March, which also means the two-week House recess previously scheduled to begin in March is canceled.

President Joe Biden will meet today with Senator Susan Collins (ME) and nine other Senate Republicans — including Mitt Romney (UT) and Bill Cassidy (LA) — who are seeking a bipartisan deal on a COVID-19 relief package. The senators are set to release a $600 billion relief package to counter Biden's $1.9 trillion proposal, even as Democrats prepare to set up the process that would allow for a measure to pass without Republican support.

On Sunday, January 31, the ten Senate Republicans proposed their alternative in a letter released by Collins' office. Their plan would include another round of $1,000 in direct economic impact payments targeted to "those families who need assistance the most" and extend federal unemployment benefits. The letter noted that billions of dollars remain unspent from the previous COVID relief packages.

Click here to read the letter

Relaunching America's Workforce Act

On Thursday, January 28, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA) reintroduced the "Relaunching America’s Workforce Act" (RAWA), along with Representatives Andy Levin ( MI), Suzanne Bonamici (OR) and co-led in the Senate by Senator Patty Murray (WA). The legislation provides immediate as well as long-term support to the workforce to help address the economic impacts of COVID-19. The proposal includes a funding structure similar to that in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) with funding for the workforce system going through existing programs to get the funding to the local level as quickly as possible. A major focus of the Act is to maintain core elements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and CTE by focusing on vulnerable populations, and ensuring that support services for those populations will be provided, while increasing flexibility so more funding can be used for training and career services.

The legislation provides the following funding:

  • $500 million for National Dislocated Worker Grants

  • $2.5 billion for State Dislocated Worker Grants

  • $2.5 billion for Youth Workforce Investment Activities

  • $2.5 billion for Adult Education and Training Activities

  • $1 billion for Wagner- Peyser/Employment Services

  • $500 million for JobCorps

  • $150 million for Native American Programs

  • $150 million for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers

  • $250 million for YouthBuild

  • $350 million for Reentry Employment Opportunities

  • $500 million for Registered Apprenticeships

  • $1 billion for Adult Education and Literacy

  • $2 billion for Community College and Industry Partnership Grants (TAACCCT Grants)

In addition to the funding, the legislation expands on increased eligibility offered in the CARES Act, ensuring that all individuals in need of WIOA services are able to access them. It expands eligibility so anyone can access individualized career services and extends it to all in the labor force, including gig and contract workers.

Click here to read the USCM Support Letter.

Click here to access the section by section breakdown of the bill.

Confirmation Hearings

On Wednesday, February 3, at 10 a.m. (ET) the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold the hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, is scheduled to have his hearing on Thursday, February 4 at 10 a.m. (ET) before the HELP Committee.

Click here to read the USCM Walsh Support Letter.

House Education and Labor Committee

On Wednesday, January 27, Minority Leader of the House Education and Labor Committee Virginia Foxx (NC) released the list of new Republican members who were selected by the Republican Steering Committee to serve on the Education and Labor Committee in the 117th Congress. New Republican members include: Congressmen/women Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA); Burgess Owens (UT); Bob Good (VA); Lisa McClain (MI); Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA); Diana Harshbarger (TN); Mary Miller (IL); Victoria Spartz (IN); Scott Fitzgerald (WI); Madison Cawthorn (NC); Michelle Steel (CA). A significant portion of the Republicans slated to join the committee are freshmen - out of 24 total GOP members due to join the committee, 11 just started their first terms in Congress.

House Appropriations Committee

On Monday, January 25, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT) named leaders for all 12 subcommittees, in addition to the Democrats who will serve on each spending panel. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN) will chair the Defense subcommittee; Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME) will lead the Interior-Environment subcommittee; Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA) will chair the subcommittee that oversees funding for the State Department and other foreign aid programs; Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA) will led the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee; and DeLauro will continue to oversee the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee. Also keeping their positions are Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA) on Agriculture-FDA; Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH) on Energy-Water; Congressman Mike Quigley (IL) on Financial Services; Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) on Homeland Security; Congressman Tim Ryan (OH) on Legislative Branch; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) on Military Construction-VA and Congressman David Price (NC) on Transportation-HUD. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI) has been selected to serve as vice chair of the full committee. All of the positions are expected to be approved by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and full caucus.

Raise the Minimum Wage Act

On Tuesday, January 26, Democrats re-introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, phase out exemptions to the minimum and tie future increases to median wages. This session, Democrats are going to do all they can to get the legislation passed, even if that means passing it via budget reconciliation. The GOP has broad opposition to the bill and there are some Democrats that might not support it - which will make it challenging to get it through the Senate. Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the bill’s lead sponsors, has threatened to use budget reconciliation to get it to the President's desk, otherwise they would need at least 10 Senate Republicans to pass it.

Initial Jobless Claims

In the week ending January 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 847,000, a decrease of 67,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 14,000 from 900,000 to 914,000. The 4-week moving average was 868,000, an increase of 16,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 3,750 from 848,000 to 851,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.4 percent for the week ending January 16, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week's revised rate.

Click here to read the full report.

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