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White House announces focus in workforce development

To hear President Trump and administration officials discuss it, it seems like workforce education and training will be a major part of this administration’s domestic agenda. Recently, at a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German and American companies, President Trump described workforce development and vocational training as “very important” and has said the U.S. should try to create 5 million new apprenticeships in the next five years. Ivanka Trump recently announced the launch of a taskforce on workforce development. The President has convened industry leaders to inform policy priorities through a Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and both President Trump and Ivanka Trump have taken to social media to promote the issue.

In addition, Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, emphasized the importance of partnerships between the educational community, the business community, and the government in ensuring the success of career and technical education. And Vice President Pence committed to strengthening and expanding opportunities for career and technical training and apprenticeship across the country.

Finally, the Senate began Labor Secretary Nominee Alexander Acosta’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday. In his opening comments, he mentioned the importance of job training having a substantial positive impact on American workers, but noted a better effort must be made to align training with the skills employers demand.

Unfortunately, the proposals in the President’s “skinny budget” cut approximately $2.5 billion in funding from the Department of Labor (DOL) and $9 billion from the Department of Education. A more detailed version of the President’s budget is expected in May, meaning the Administration still has the opportunity to prioritize the training programs receiving praise from senior officials. With nearly $2 billion in cuts unaccounted for in the released version of DOL’s budget, though, bipartisan groups of Governors and practitioners are expressing concern that key workforce education and training programs may not receive the funding they need to meet demand and support local businesses.

It’s especially critical to invest in education and training while the economy is good – this creates a pipeline of skilled workers to support the growth of businesses and our economy. These investments also expand access for low-skilled workers to move into higher skilled (and better paying) positions. A recent NSC study  shows that businesses in nearly every state aren’t able to find the workers with the skills they need. At the same time, there are more low-skilled workers than there are low-skilled jobs available. This mismatch costs businesses money and workers opportunity.

Minority staff at the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations estimate that proposed cuts in the budget would result in a 35 percent decrease in funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the law governing workforce development activities. It was passed in 2014 with overwhelming bipartisan support, and adequate funding is key to state and local areas’ ability to deliver on Congress’ bipartisan mandate.

Under WIOA, local areas are required to implement – and the majority of funding goes to support – evidence-based  strategies, such as supporting sector partnerships, and investing in career pathways. Local areas are also required to more deeply align their work with the apprenticeship system – a key opportunity for meeting the President’s goal of 5 million more apprenticeships in this country. A failure to adequately invest would undermine these local and state activities and progress towards implementing new comprehensive plans to align employment and training programs with regional economic development strategies that benefit businesses and workers alike.

As the budget process for next year continues, the Administration and Congress have the chance to support the programs at the foundation of the President’s promise to create jobs. And there will be a robust chorus of advocates in states across the country making the call for them to do so and ready to jump into action when they do.    

Urge your Members of Congress to support workforce education and training programs in the next fiscal year.  

Posted In: Federal Funding
Trump Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint calls for steep cuts in training, education

Earlier today, President Trump released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget blueprint, also known as a “skinny” budget, outlining a set of proposals that would increase overall funding for defense programs while cutting approximately $54 billion in non-defense programs in the coming year. While the document is relatively  light on details – a full budget proposal is expected later this spring - the proposal contains significant cuts to the Departments of Labor and Education.

The blueprint calls for $2.5 billion in cuts to the Department of Labor, or about 21 percent below current funding levels. The proposal specifically identifies about $500 million in cuts through the elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) – which is currently funded at around $434 million – and elimination of programs under the Bureau of International Labor Affairs and training grants under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The proposal does not provide clear guidance on where the remaining $2 billion in cuts would be made, but it indicates that there are likely to be major cuts to workforce and Wagner-Peyser Employment Service formula grants under WIOA, stating that more responsibility for these programs will be shifted to “States, localities, and employers.” The blueprint also indicates that some savings will be achieved through closing lower-performing Job Corps centers, though actual funding decreases are not specified.

Oppose these cuts by taking action!

Given that combined funding for WIOA Title I training grants and ES formula grants is roughly $3.4 billion, this suggests potential cuts of up to 50 percent to these critical programs. Coming on top of years of disinvestment – state formula grants for Title I of the Workforce Investment Act and WIOA have been cut by nearly 40 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2001 – these cuts, if enacted, would have devastating consequences on state and local workforce systems and would severely limit the ability of jobseekers and businesses to get the necessary skills to compete in today’s economy. It is particularly disappointing to see these cuts proposed after Congress overwhelmingly passed reauthorization of WIOA in 2014, and states and local communities have undertaken significant efforts to modernize their workforce and employment services in response to the new requirements of the law.

The blueprint also includes approximately $9 billion in cuts to the Department of Education, or 13 percent below current funding levels. The budget would apparently maintain current discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program, but would cut about $3.9 billion in unspent prior year funding. Adult education programs under WIOA Title II and state formula grants under the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act are not referenced, which would seem to suggest that these programs will be level funded in the more detailed budget proposal that will be released later this spring. Funding for some smaller ED programs aimed at supporting working adults and other low-income students, like the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants program, TRIO programs, and Federal Work-Study is either eliminated or significantly reduced.

Other departments that would be cut include the Department of Health and Human Services, which would see a reduction of $15.1 billion or nearly 18 percent relative to current levels, including the elimination of the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) program; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which would be cut by $6.2 billion (13.2 percent), including the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training, postsecondary education, and other human services programs. On Tuesday, NSC joined with more than 30 other national organizations as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce on a letter  to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, strongly encouraging him to ensure that the final budget proposal rejects unnecessary cuts to workforce and education, and instead support meaningful investments in the skills of U.S. workers and businesses.

Workforce advocates have an opportunity to weigh in as well. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) have just released a “Dear Colleague” letter to the House appropriations subcommittee that will be overseeing final FY’18 funding decisions for Labor, Education, and HHS programs, and calls for increased funding for critical workforce programs.

Please take a moment to send a message to your Representative urging them to sign on to the Dear Colleague, and show their support for the vital work that workforce, education, and human services programs are doing across the country. 

 

Posted In: Federal Funding

U.S. Department of Labor announces America’s Promise Grants

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba
U.S. Department of Labor announces America’s Promise Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $111 million in America’s Promise grants to 23 regional workforce partnerships to support tuition-free education and training for high-demand industries. The new four-year grants build on President Obama’s 2015 proposal to provide up to two years of free community college for qualifying students, and will support a range of sector-driven strategies, including work-based learning, classroom instruction, and competency-based education. The grants are expected to provide more than 21,000 US workers with the skills and credentials they need to enter into, or advance within, target occupations. Grantees are expected to leverage more than $57 million in other federal and non-federal dollars to support the implementation of these programs.

Grant recipients announced today include:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Birmingham

Ala.

MiraCosta Community College District

Oceanside

Calif.

Delaware Technical Community College

Dover

Del.

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Jacksonville

Fla.

Brevard Workforce Development Board, Inc.

Rockledge

Fla.

Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center

Peoria

Ill.

Tecumseh Area Partnership, Inc.

Lafayette

Ind.

United Way of Central Iowa

Des Moines

Iowa

Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Inc.

Wichita

Kan.

Montgomery College

Rockville

Md.

Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids

Mich.

Southeast Michigan Community Alliance

Taylor

Mich.

City of Springfield

Springfield

Mo.

RFCUNY on behalf of CUNY OAA - CEWP

New York

N.Y.

Monroe Community College

Rochester

N.Y.

Worksystems, Inc.

Portland

Ore.

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training

Cranston

R.I.

Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce

Memphis

Tenn.

Alamo Community College District

San Antonio

Texas

New River Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Area Consortium

Radford

Va.

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

Moorefield

W.Va.

Employ Milwaukee

Milwaukee

Wisc.

Northern Wyoming Community College District

Sheridan

Wyo.


National Skills Coalition applauds the Obama administration’s continued efforts to expand access to quality education and training as part of their Job-Driven Training plan, including $2 billion in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants that were released between 2011-2014, and more than $250 million in DOL grants to expand apprenticeship over the past two years.  These investments have helped tens of thousands of workers take advantage of new work opportunities while helping businesses across a range of industries develop talent pipelines that will support their growth and competitiveness. As we look forward to the 115th Congress and the beginning of the Trump administration in 2017, we hope that policymakers will expand on these important efforts, and ensure that every workers and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Job-Driven Investments

Presidential memo addresses services and info for veterans

  ·   By Dominic Alhambra
Presidential memo addresses services and info for veterans
The White House released a Presidential Memorandum last week detailing best practices for education and training institutions serving veterans, members of the military, and their families. With 200,000 service members annually transitioning to further education or careers, it is important to provide veterans with reliable information about high-quality postsecondary education.
 
The Memorandum establishes the Federal Interagency Working Group, which aims to coordinate and execute policy proposals to:
 
  • Develop a plan to establish data linkages across education and training agencies to measure veterans' education and employment outcomes
  • Enhance efforts on credentialing and licensing for service members
  • Implement evaluations of the most effective methods for career and education counseling
  • Expand apprenticeships and industry-recognized credentials within the military

The data linkage plan enables potential Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries to view information about the career experiences of past participants before and after education programs; compare outcome information between beneficiaries and eligible non-participants; and increase the transparency of information about educational attainment, debt levels, and loan default rates, overall presenting a pathway to best utilize the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the benefit of service members and taxpayers.
 
The Working Group's focus on implementing military apprenticeship programs will strengthen the ability of service members to obtain skills and credentials during and after military service. These enhanced apprenticeship policies will transform the connections between military training and apprenticeship, education, and transition activities into industry-recognized credentials.
 
Within the next four months, the Working Group will fully establish a plan for the implementation of these policies.
 
*This post was previously published on Workforce Data Quality Campaign's website
Posted In: Federal Funding
DOL announces $50.5 million in Apprenticeship State Expansion Grants

On October 21st, Department of Labor announced $50.5 million in State Expansion Grants under the ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative. The 18-month grants, ranging from $700,000 to $2.7 million, were awarded to 37 grantees across the country.

Grantees are state projects that bring together stakeholders across the apprenticeship system – intermediaries, industry, education providers, community based organizations, etc. – to develop innovative system reforms to increase the use of apprenticeship as a training strategy. States are tasked with integrating workforce and education systems, building capacity to conduct outreach to new sectors not traditionally using apprenticeship and to populations underrepresented in the current system, and build on and develop practices to increase demand for apprenticeship and availability of apprenticeship opportunities.

The State Expansion Grants represent the final set of investments supported by a $90 million appropriation for apprenticeship in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 omnibus spending bill.  DOL had previously released $10.4 million in state Accelerator grants in June 2016, and $20.4 million in intermediary and equity technical assistance contracts to national organizations late last month.

It is unclear whether there will be further funding to support the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative next year. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposed an additional $100 million in FY2017 to build on this year’s investments; the House did not include additional funding in their version of the FY2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill. Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution in early October that lasts through December 9th, so final decisions on FY 2017 funding will be made once lawmakers return following the November election. National Skills Coalition supports continued funding for apprenticeship for youth and adults and other key education and workforce programs, and we look forward to working with the appropriations committees to ensure that investments in skills are a priority in the coming year.

States and Territories with projects under this grant are listed below:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
Department of Labor solicits proposals for national equity intermediary contracts

On July 27, DOL released a solicitation for proposals for $7.5 million in contracts to be awarded to national equity intermediaries or “Opportunity partnerships.” DOL anticipates awarding 3-5 contracts which will be for 1 year of work with the option to renew for up to 4 additional years.

The contracts are intended to increase representation of women, people of color, and people with disabilities within Registered Apprenticeship, with DOL intending to award at least one contract to address the needs of each of these target populations. Contractors are able to target, within these populations, the needs of youth, low-income workers, Limited English Proficient, Immigrants or any other groups the contractor identifies. Contractors must be able to evidence industry expertise and national scope of the equity intermediary.

To be eligible, contractors must –

  1. Engage with partners such as employers, labor-management organizations, community based organization, educational providers, and the workforce development system to form “opportunity partnerships” at either the national or regional level;
     
  2. Create and share tools that increase access, entry and retention of underrepresented populations in Registered Apprenticeship;
     
  3. Provide technical assistance to sponsors of programs with the goal of helping these programs develop plans to improve diversity and inclusion in their programs and among program graduates;
     
  4. Work with other DOL initiatives, such as ApprenticeshipUSA LEADERs, a sector-based network of apprenticeship leaders, to support the diversification of apprenticeship programs across the country and across industries.


Contractors and Opportunity partnerships will be required to show increases to the percentage of individuals from their target population entering pre-apprenticeship or preparatory training, the percentage of apprentices entering  a Registered Apprenticeship Program, an increase in the number of sponsors of programs who are committed to expanding equity among apprenticeship programs, and the percentage of new apprentices who receive supportive services to support entrance and retention in apprenticeship programs.

In the solicitation, DOL requires applicants to detail how their work would align with regulations in 29 CFR 30, rules covering Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship. DOL is currently finalizing these rules, with an anticipated release date this fall, and NSC submitted comments to the Employment and Training Administration during comment period last year. These regulations are intended to update the regulations for the first time since 1978, and NSC recommended that updates include alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and additional guidance for sponsors on the selection of Apprentices. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Sector Partnerships, Federal Funding
House Appropriations Committee passes FY2017 Labor-HHS bill

On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 by a 31-19 vote.

Unlike the bipartisan Senate bill marked up last month, the House bill funds Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programming at current FY2016 levels; the Senate bill cut those programs by $33.5 million and $35.4 million respectively. The House version would also increase the state dislocated worker formula grant by $20 million relative to current funding levels, but makes cuts of nearly $90 million to the dislocated worker national reserve.

The Committee Report explains that this reduction of funding for the Dislocated Worker National Reserve is in part because DOL had used this fund in past years to support the Job-Driven Training and Sector Partnership grant programs. The Report criticizes the use of these funds to support these grant programs,  since the Administration had included funding for the programs in budget request and Congress had explicitly not funded those items. Even if the final FY2017 appropriations bill does not include this cut, the Committee Report language signals that we may see additional Congressional scrutiny for DOL discretionary grants, perhaps even H-1B grants, moving forward.

The House bill also leaves out funding for apprenticeship included in the FY2016 bill at $90 million and in the FY2017 Senate Labor-HHS bill at $100 million. Committee Report language criticizes the Employment and Training Administration for not releasing more programmatic data about the use of their FY2016 funds. While this lack of data is in part because ETA has only released the bulk of these funds within the past few months, this criticism is further evidence of Congressional scrutiny of Administrative grant programs. While the Senate does not seem to have the same concerns voiced by the House Committee, Senators Murray and Hatch have introduced the Effective Apprenticeships to Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act, which would address the lack of data about which the House raises concerns. Under the EARNS Act,  DOL would be required to engage an outside entity to evaluate the effectiveness of apprenticeship programs and the success DOL has had in meeting the goals of each of the provisions in the bill, including increasing employment, the number of workers attaining postsecondary credentials, the return on investment of all funding mechanisms, and longitudinal outcomes for participants.

The House Labor-HHS bill, like the Senate version, would fund Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants at FY2016 levels.

Adult education state grants under WIOA Title II and career and technical education state grants under the Perkins Act are level-funded. However, the House bill does not include the restoration of “year-round Pell” that was included in the Senate bill, and makes a cut of approximately $1.3 billion in funding to the overall Pell program, which is not expected to impact maximum grant levels for the coming academic year but would reduce the amount of overall funding available for Pell in future years. At the subcommittee and full committee markups, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would reinstate year-round Pell, consistent with the Senate’s Labor-HHS bill. The Subcommittee and full committee voted against including the amendment, on party lines, though Subcommittee Chairman Cole (R-OK) acknowledged this issue would likely resurface during bicameral negotiations later in the appropriations process.

National Skills Coalition appreciates the committee’s efforts to maintain WIOA formula funding at current year levels, especially as states and local areas continue with implementation of the law, though we do not support the proposed cuts to the national reserve. We are deeply disappointed by the committee’s cuts to apprenticeship grants, and we believe the committee has missed a significant opportunity to expand access to postsecondary skills and credentials by failing to adopt the Senate’s proposal to restore year-round Pell.  

The House and Senate are will recess July 15 through Labor Day, September 5, for the National Conventions and summer recess.  FY 2017 begins October 1, 2016, so Congress must pass legislation to fund the government by September 30.  Given the relatively limited time left on the legislative calendar, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to complete work on a final Labor-HHS bill, and so it is likely that lawmakers will need to pass at least a short-term continuing resolution (CR) in order to continue federal government operations until after the November elections. The House Freedom Caucus has proposed a six month CR that would extend funding at FY 2016 levels until March 2017, which would allow final FY 2017 funding decisions to be made by the next administration and Congress. House appropriators and leadership have been cool to this approach. There are some reports, however, that Senate Republicans may support such a move as well. While extending funding through a long-term CR would likely avoid any significant funding cuts for education and workforce programs in the short term, it would add to the uncertainty around future funding levels and in particular make it difficult for states and local areas to implement key workforce strategies outlined in their WIOA state plans. 

Advocates should weigh in with their members of Congress to educate them on the importance of skills investments, and urge them to push for full funding of key education and workforce programs as part of the final FY 2017 appropriations package. National Skills Coalition will continue to monitor the process and provide updates to the field as new information becomes available. 

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Department of Labor announced $50.5 million to fund ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants

On June 22, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced $50.5 million to fund ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants. DOL anticipates awarding grants to 33 states from $700,000 to $3.2 million for planning activities over 18 months.

These grants are part of the $90 million Congress appropriated in FY2016 to DOL for the expansion of Apprenticeship and follow the award of $10.4 million in Apprenticeship Accelerator Grants to 51 states and local areas earlier in June.

States are eligible for up to $3.2 million, depending on the current number of apprentices in each state. States with 7,000 or more apprentices are eligible for $1.3-3.2 million, those with 2,500-6,999 apprentices are eligible for $900,000-$2.45 million and those with 2,499 or fewer apprentices are eligible for $700,000-$2.0 million.

The awards are intended to increase apprenticeship opportunities by funding states to develop a Governor-supported expansion strategy, building state capacity to support this strategy and align Registered Apprenticeship with other workforce, education, and economic development strategies in the state, increase intermediary capacity to support employer demand, increase opportunities for underrepresented populations through equity and diversification, promote Registered Apprenticeship state wide, collect data and report on apprenticeship status in states, and plan for the continuation of these activities after the 18-month grant program.

In order to meet these goals, states are able to use funds to

  • Support individuals enrolled in Registered Apprenticeship Programs by covering costs and providing supportive services, provide classroom training, develop apprenticeship curricula and standards;
  • Support the development of career pathways models through pre-apprenticeship;
  • Develop incentives or tax credits for employers, intermediaries and industry organizations;
  • Convene stakeholders for information exchanges, institutes and training; and
  • Modernize data collection and IT systems.                                                                     


The Senate’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Services (Labor-HHS) bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 includes $100 million in funding for Apprenticeship, $10 million over funding provided for FY2016. If Congress funds this line item for FY2017, DOL anticipates awarding a second and third round of ApprenticeshipUSA State Expansion Grants in order to fund additional planning and additional states.

Applications are due by 4:00 pm EST on September 7, 2016. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
Grant provides childcare to parents in training programs

On June 14th, Department of Labor awarded $54 million – more than twice the anticipated funds – to 14 partnerships across the country under the Strengthening Working Families Initiative. Partnerships received between $3 million and $4 million which will be used to support programming to address the barriers parents encounter to entering training programs. Innovative approaches under the grant include co-location of the training program with child care services, provision of childcare during nontraditional work hours or at different locations, flexibility in child care services to respond to parents’ emergencies and general expanded access to childcare and supportive services necessary to enroll and succeed in a job training program.

Grantees are listed below:

  • Action for Boston Community Development, Inc. (MA)
  • Alachua Bradford Regional Workforce Board, dba CareerSource (FL)
  • City of Long Beach Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Net (CA)
  • City of Phoenix (AZ)
  • Community College of Aurora (CO)
  • Family Footprint (SC)
  • Memphis Bioworks Foundation (TN)
  • Moore Community House (MS)
  • OAI Inc. (IL)
  • OIC of Broward, dba OIC of South Florida (FL)
  • Rochester Rehabilitation Center (NY)
  • The WorkPlace (CT)
  • Total Action Against Poverty in the Roanoke Valley, Inc. (VA)
  • Vermont Technical College (VT)
Posted In: Federal Funding
House anti-poverty task force releases agenda, calls for increased work requirements, reduced federal role

Yesterday, the House Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility – one of six cross-committee working groups announced by House Speaker Paul Ryan in February - released a broad set of policy proposals intended to stake out the party’s anti-poverty agenda for the remainder of 2016 and beyond. The new report includes proposals for sweeping changes to safety net programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and federal housing programs under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and also sets forth principles and recommendations for a range of other federal investments, including career and technical education programs under the Carl D. Perkins Act and postsecondary funding under the Higher Education Act.

Overall, the task force report expands on ideas that Speaker Ryan has proposed in past years – most notably in a series of budget proposals released during his time as chair of the House budget committee - arguing that federal anti-poverty efforts are generally ineffective and calling for reduced spending and consolidation of many means-tested programs. The task force adopts a very broad definition of federal “welfare” programs, counting 80 different federal programs across 13 different agencies including Pell Grants, workforce programs under WIOA, and federal tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, and suggests that combined federal and state expenditures on programs for low-income individuals amounts to approximately $1 trillion per year.

In a section entitled, “Repairing the Nation’s Safety Net to Expand Opportunity,” the task force sets out four key principles that will guide reform efforts and brief policy recommendations that will guide their legislative efforts moving forward:

1) “Expecting work-capable adults to work or prepare for work in exchange for welfare benefits.” The report calls for a range of policy changes intended to tighten existing work requirements for anti-poverty programs and expand work requirements to other programs, including:

  • Requiring states to engage more TANF recipients in work and work-related activities, relative to current work participation rates. 
  • Better connecting child support enforcement programs to workforce development activities 
  • Requiring Unemployment Insurance (UI) beneficiaries to engaged as early as possible with reemployment strategies
  • Reforming Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to reduce cash assistance for recipients – particularly youth – and focusing more on direct access to support services
  • Expanding work requirements for SNAP recipients
  • Requiring housing programs to align with TANF benefits, including authorizing states and local areas to impose work and educational training requirements and time limits beyond which benefits would be discontinued for non-working but work-capable adults 
     

2) “Getting incentives right so everyone benefits when someone moves from welfare to work” The report suggests that there are often disincentives for individuals and states in transitioning program participants from public assistance into work, and recommends:

  • Increasing local control and flexibility– providing state and local governments with flexibility to “repackage” welfare benefits through demonstration projects to provide a more holistic approach for families they serve. In exchange, states and local areas would be held accountable for outcomes, and each demonstration would include an evaluation component
  • Adjusting federal matching rates in anti-poverty programs to encourage accelerated outcomes, for example by increasing federal matching percentages when individuals begin services, and lowering the federal match over time
  • Creating individual choice in housing programs by increased portability of housing vouchers
  • Consolidating a range of existing programs, particularly food assistance and housing programs
     

3) “Measuring the results” – generally asserts that most federal programs are not backed by evidence, and that those programs that are evaluated often have limited results. The task force:

  • Notes the existence of the Evidence-Based Policy Commission Act signed into law in March 2016 and suggests this will provide recommendations relating to federal data infrastructure
  • Recommends that social programs could be shifted to a “tiered evidence” funding model, where funding for programs would be divided into three categories: funding for developing and testing new ideas; funding for rigorous evaluation; and funding for expansion of models that prove effective
  • Recommends shifting social programs to pay-for-performance or social impact financing
  • Recommends that all social programs undergo more evaluation, including potentially redirecting existing program funding to support greater evaluation
  • Recommends expanded data sharing across federal agencies – specifically notes the National Directory of New Hires as an example
     

4) “Focusing support on the people who need it most” – this set of recommendations is largely focused on reducing improper payments, particularly through the Earned Income Tax Credit, Unemployment Insurance, SSI, and SNAP. The task force calls for greater alignment of data across agencies to eliminate error rates, and greater use of data analytics tools to identify fraud.

In the second major section of the report, entitled “Improving Skills and Knowledge of our Workforce,” the report provides recommendations covering a range of different topics, including early childhood development, juvenile justice reform, and banking and pension reforms. Importantly, this section also provides a set of principles for reauthorization of the Perkins Act and the Higher Education Act

Under the heading of Improving Career and Technical Education, the task force notes that Perkins is due for reauthorization, and suggests that House Republicans will prioritize:

  • Empowering state and local leaders by providing substantially greater flexibility in the state and local funding formulas under Title I
  • Reducing current performance reporting requirements
  • Expanding partnerships with local businesses
  • Limiting the federal role in oversight of state and local CTE systems
     

Under the heading of Strengthening America’s Higher Education System, the task force suggests that the current higher education system is “unaffordable, bureaucratic, and outdated,” and suggests that HEA reauthorization will focus on:

  • Empowering students and families to make informed decisions, including students who are not pursuing the traditional four-year college experience. Suggests that current federal efforts to provide information on colleges should be simplified, and federal agencies should coordinate more effectively to provide information that is useful to students. Also suggests greater emphasis on financial aid counseling
  • Simplifying student aid – generally, calls for consolidating existing federal aid programs so that there is a single federal higher education grant program, loan program, and work study program, and also calls for restoration of year-round Pell to accelerate student degree attainment
  • Promoting innovation through greater access to online learning, expanding opportunities for “contemporary” students to obtain their GED, and creating better pathways to competency-based education
  • Reducing federal reporting requirements while strengthening “accountability” for higher education institutions, refocusing accreditation to look at academic quality and student learning
     

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to reduce federal funding for anti-poverty programs and to impose work requirements on public assistance recipients without investments in education, training, and support services to enable individuals to successfully transition into family-supporting jobs and careers. While we believe some of the task force proposals may have merit – particularly around restoring year-round Pell and expanding business-CTE partnerships – overall we believe the task force recommendations will likely do more harm than good for low-skilled workers and other disadvantaged populations. We would urge the task force to focus its efforts instead on expanding access to high-quality education and training programs that would enable low-income individuals to get and keep good jobs and increasing investments in proven strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways strategies that can help businesses grow and succeed.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Higher Education Access
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