Administration’s budget request includes critical proposals for workers, but falls short in investing at necessary levels

By Katie Spiker, Kermit Kaleba, February 10, 2020

On February 10th, the Trump Administration released their Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget request, which included some important proposals to help workers access skills for good jobs. Unfortunately, these proposals were coupled with inadequate funding levels for many workforce programs and massive cuts to others – and to safety net programs – that contradict the administration’s stated efforts to invest in workers.

The overwhelming majority of voters – 85% – and business leaders – 79% – want more public investment in skills. Despite this priority, workforce funding has been cut by nearly 40% since 2001. As the U.S. prepares for technological shift in the workplace – and the nearly 100 million workers who will need to be reskilled or upskilled to stay in the workforce – the federal government needs to invest in skills. Today’s budget delivers in some ways, but overall falls far short of what workers, businesses, or our country needs to compete in a global 21st century economy.

The Good. The request includes several proposals and funding increases – like a $680 million increase in state grants for Career and Technical education and the continued call to expand Pell grants to short-term programs – that would be critical to expanding workers’ access to skills training and are consistent with NSC priorities. It also continues a focus on expanding access to work-based learning programs, including through the administration’s Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program proposals, with added proposals to update Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers and increase H-1B visa fees to support programs that train workers for in-demand occupations.

The Bad. At the same time, however, the administration continues to propose inadequate funding to critical programs that currently support workers’ ability to develop the skills businesses need. In FY2021, the administration’s budget proposed level funding for state grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), meaning states and local areas will lack support necessary to help workers reskill and upskill. At the same time, it proposed eliminating several WIOA national programs, including the Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants and funding for Native American Programs and Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers.

The budget also proposed almost $300 million in cuts under the heading of “Reforming Welfare Programs,” including nearly $200 billion in cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and more than $20 billion in cuts to TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). In addition, the administration is calling for expanding work requirements for Medicaid, which they’ve been trying to roll out at the state level through waivers and which would be another $150 billion in cuts over ten years. Low-income workers rely on these benefits to support their families and many individuals on public assistance programs could benefit from better access to high quality education and training. Reducing access to these programs means they are far less likely to get that training.

The Next Steps. This year’s budget request is unlikely to have much impact on the FY2021 appropriations process on the Hill. This is in part because in 2019, Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal that set top line funding levels for FY2020 and FY2021. The President’s budget request comes in below those agreed to numbers and Congress – especially in an election year – is unlikely to spend at lower levels that those to which they previously agreed. The budget request today does, however, send a message about where the administration wants Congress to invest in FY2021. National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with appropriators and other members of Congress to ensure that investment is in programs that help workers access the skills they need for good jobs and that meet business demand.

The Details. More analysis coming tomorrow.

FY 2021 – Authorized Levels Current Levels – FY 2020 FY2021 President’s Budget Request FY2021 Budget Request to FY2020 Levels
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 – State Forumla Grants $2,819,832,000
WIOA Adult NA $854,649,000 $854,649,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker NA* $1,052,053,000 $1,052,053,000
WIOA Youth NA $913,130,000 $913,130,000
Wagner-Peyser / Employment Service Grants NA $668,000,000 $668,052,000
Workforce Data Quality Inititative Grants NA $6,000,000 -$6,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants NA $175,000,000 $200,000,000 $25,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $270,859,000 $160,859,000 -$110,000,000
Native American Programs NA $55,000,000 -$55,000,000
Ex-offender Activities NA $98,079,000 $93,079,000 -$5,000,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers NA $91,896,000 -$91,896,000
Youth Build NA $94,534,000 $84,534,000 -$10,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Programs NA $405,000,000 -$405,000,000
JobCorps NA $1,743,655,000 $1,015,897,000 -$727,758,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,282,598,000 $1,962,598,000 $680,000,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants NA $656,955,000 $656,955,000

Picture via the U.S. Government Publishing Office