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Advocacy & Policy Update - May 4, 2020



Fourth Stimulus/Appropriations

On Monday, May 4, the Senate returned from an extended coronavirus-related recess, as Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (KY) is hoping to advance judicial and executive branch nominees and in-person hearings are also starting back up this month. The House does not plan to come back until next week, but an Appropriations subcommittee will still hold an in-person hearing Wednesday on coronavirus response. House and Senate appropriators have been working remotely on spending bills for FY21 and plan to quickly get to work on passage upon return to the Hill. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT), chairwoman of the House Labor-HHS-Education spending panel, said it is still possible for the House to meet its original goal of clearing all 12 appropriations bills by the end of June. The Senate hopes to finish markups by July 4.

Within the next few weeks, lawmakers are expected to drop a fourth coronavirus relief package -- which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) hopes will provide more support for state and local economies. Democrats are eager to pass a fourth package, but the Administration and many Republicans are pushing for a ‘wait-and-see’ approach before executing the final package. Unemployment numbers continue to sit at record highs - with more than 30.3 million unemployment claims filed in just six weeks - and will perhaps be a factor in timing on the fourth stimulus.

Relaunching America’s Workforce Act

On Friday, May 1, House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (VA), along with Representatives Bonamici (OR), Davis (PA), Castro (TX) and Levin (MI), introduced the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act (XX), a bill calling for a $15.1 billion investment in WIOA, Adult Education, and Career and Technical Education as part of the COVID-19 crisis response. Using the ARRA framework, the bill funnels funding through existing channels, providing $2.5 billion each for Title I Adult, Youth and Dislocated Worker state grants, $1 billion for Wagner Peyser, $1 billion for Adult Education (including for digital literacy), $1 billion for CTE state grants and $2 billion for a revamped TAACCCT (renamed Community College and Industry Partnerships) program. It also includes increased funding for national grant programs under WIOA and for registered apprenticeships. All funds can be used until FY22. Senators Murray (WA), Kaine (VA), Smith (MN) and Baldwin (WI) will be sponsoring the companion bill in the Senate.

USCM has partnered with NAWB, NACO and NLC on a support letter, calling for a $15 billion investment in workforce development, consistent with Chairman Scott’s Bill. USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran also authored an op-Ed in WorkingNation calling for significant investments in workforce development programs in the next stimulus.

It is absolutely critical that your congressional representatives hear from you, your business partners and your mayors in support of this legislation. Additional outreach is also key — to House and Senate Appropriations Committee members; Labor-HHS Subcommittee members; House and Senate leadership (Representatives Hoyer, Clyburn, McCarthy and Scalise in the House and Senators Schumer, Durbin, Murray and McConnell in the Senate); as well as members of the House Education and Labor and Senate HELP Committee members.

Click here to access the bill text or here to access a short section-by-section summary of the bill.

Click here to access the joint letter.

Click here to read the USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran’s op-Ed.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) is hosting a national online dialogue entitled Opening America’s Workplace Again to discuss the challenges that businesses face as they begin and plan to reopen and how to best help employers and workers safely reopen America’s businesses. This national dialogue is hosted by the DOL’s Office of Compliance Initiatives in partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, and Women’s Bureau. From Thursday, April 30 through Thursday, May 7, the public is invited to participate in the dialogue and share ideas on reopening businesses; commuting safely; working safely; accommodating members of vulnerable populations; supporting America’s families; and reducing regulatory burdens.

Click here to get started.

Department of Education

On Thursday, April 30, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that nearly $1.4 billion in additional funding will be directed to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), as well as institutions serving low-income students to help ensure learning continues during the coronavirus national emergency. The funding is part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund authorized by the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding can be used to cover the cost of technology associated with a transition to distance education, grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students, faculty and staff training, operational costs -such as lost revenue, reimbursements for prior expenses, and payroll.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click here for more information on how the Department of Education efforts on COVID-19.

Rethink Education Grants

On Monday, April 27, the Trump Administration announced more than $300 million in stimulus grants for the states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to ‘rethink’ K-12 education and reimagine workforce preparation. Part of the funding will be directed toward the ‘microgrants’ that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has called on Congress to fund to help disadvantaged students learn during the crisis. Application packages for the funding will be available within two weeks.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

On Monday, April 27, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declined to seek waivers to the ‘core tenets’ of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that would be in effect during the coronavirus pandemic. The Department is requesting that Congress consider additional flexibility on administrative requirements under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and IDEA. DeVos recommended a waiver that would allow local education agencies to keep funds that were allocated to them under the Perkins Act during the 2019-2020 academic year and that have gone unspent during the pandemic. She requested several additional waiver authorities relating to the Perkins Act, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Unemployment Claims

On Thursday, April 30, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the jobless claims were 3,839,000, a decrease of 603,000, in the week ending April 25. The previous week’s level was revised up by 15,000 from 4,427,000 to 4,442,000. The 4-week moving average was 5,033,250, a decrease of 757,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 5,790,25 - up by 3,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 12.4 percent for the week ending April 18, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the previous week’s revised rate.

Click here to read the DOL BLS report.

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