Draft Senate bill falls short for workers, businesses, and communities as House passes short-term solution

By Katie Spiker, September 24, 2019

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released draft text of their Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies bill. The bill would fund most skills programs at current levels, after a Senate allocation process last week that included a mere 1% increase in funding for the L-HHS subcommittee bill and passed on party lines. This meager increase comes despite a budget deal earlier this year that increased nondefense spending levels by almost $25 billion for FY2020 over FY2019. It also led to the subcommittee rescinding funding from the Pell Grant Reserve Fund to support level funding, in order to build in increased funding for non-Labor or Education priorities under their jurisdiction. The Senate bill’s level funding stands in stark contrast to the increases many skills programs saw under the FY2020 House Labor-HHS bill, which included important and necessary investments in critical workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would level fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth state grants. Since 2001, WIOA state grants have declined by nearly 40% and despite overwhelming bipartisan support for a 2014 reauthorization, Congress has never funded WIOA state grants at authorized levels.

In their committee report, the committee recognizes that the historically low unemployment rate does not reflect the realities in communities across the country, recognizing the “critical functions” of WIOA state grant funding. As Congress looks to reauthorizing WIOA, now is the time to make a commitment to support workers, businesses and communities and address historic, comparative and detrimental disinvestment.

WIOA national programs – including YouthBuild, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs, Ex-Offender Activities and Native American Programs – and Wagner-Peyser state grants are also funded at current levels under the Senate bill.

The committee report and bill did include a few important areas of bipartisan progress. There is a $10 million increase above FY2019 levels for apprenticeship in the bill and the committee recognizes that supporting industry or sector partnerships is a key strategy for expanding apprenticeship in in-demand industries, consistent with the PARTNERS Act. The bill also included a recommendation to the Department of Labor to support demonstration projects on workforce development strategies that help workers most at risk of job dislocation due to automation and AI, citing to recommendations in two recent GAO reports. Finally, the bill includes a $10 million increase to the Dislocated Worker National Reserve, which the committee report directs the Department of Labor to direct to demonstration grants to fund “Career Pathways for Youth” grants, with a focus on job training for opportunity youth and connections between workforce boards and youth-serving organizations.

At the same time, the bill would, consistent with and citing to the President’s FY2020 Presidential Budget Request, eliminate funding for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative. This elimination is contrary to the administration’s stated focus on evidence-based investment and would eliminate funding on which states rely to capture and analyze important workforce data.

Department of Education

The Senate bill would fund both Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) state grants and Adult Education and Family Literacy State grants at FY2019 levels. Both of these programs received slight increases in FY2019, but investments have declined by nearly 30 percent and almost 15 percent, since 2001, respectively. The House L-HHS bill would have provided both programs with slight increases.

The bill would increase the maximum Pell grant to $6,330 for the 2020-21 school year. The bill, however, would rescind $1.3 billion in unobligated balances of the Pell Grant reserve to pay for increases across the L-HHS bill, outside of higher education funding. This rescission amounts to a cut to the funding available to low income students to access training and education programs and is harmful to workers and businesses.

The proposal also includes a new $10 million in funding for grants to expand CTE career pathway programs and connections between secondary and postsecondary CTE programs. This new funding is consistent with the innovation grants authorized in the 2018 Perkins CTE reauthorization.

What’s Next

The House, also last week, passed a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government at current year levels through November 21. The Senate has until September 30th, the conclusion of FY 2019, to pass the CR – or reach an unlikely agreement on their appropriations bills – to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate is likely to move forward with the House-passed CR and continue negotiations on the L-HHS, among others, FY2020 appropriations bill. The House L-HHS bill (and the L-HHS subcommittee allocation) was significantly more generous in funding levels for skills programs than the draft released by the Senate appropriations committee. It’s possible, especially given this disparity and the increasingly partisan process in the Senate this year, Congress will be unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending levels and will instead pass a single CR for the year, or a series of shorter-term CRs.

If Congress is able to reach a final agreement, and the President signs off on this agreement, the final funding levels are likely to be closer to the Senate levels, but will probably reflect the areas of priority mirrored in the Senate version – apprenticeship and CTE may see slight increases with other programs maintained at least at current year levels.

NSC, along with our national organization partners as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, urged Senate appropriators to increase investments in critical programs in a letter earlier this year. These increases are overwhelmingly popular with likely 2020 voters – 93% of whom support investments in skills – and small and mid-size business owners – 79% of whom support new, public investment in skills.

Investments in skills are more important than ever. Businesses continue to struggle to find workers and workers aren’t able to access training necessary to succeed in good jobs. As we face the impending impact of technology, automation and AI on the workforce, reports suggest nearly 100 million workers will have their jobs substantially changed – or eliminated – in the coming years. Investments in these programs have been cut drastically over the past two decades and we invest less in our workforce than almost every other industrialized country.

The workforce and technical education systems in our country are posed to address the challenges businesses and workers face today and in the future of work, but Congress must invest today in skills training for the jobs of the 21st century.


FY 2020 – Authorized Levels Current Levels – FY 2019 FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS Report FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS compared to Current Levels
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants $2,789,832,000 $2,967,360,000 $2,789,832,000
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000 $900,000,000 $845,556,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,103,360,000 $1,040,860,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $964,000,000 $903,416,000
Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants NA


$663,052,000 $680,000,000


Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants NA $6,000,000 $8,000,000 -$6,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants NA $160,000,000 $250,000,000 $170,000,000 $10,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $220,859,000 $370,859,000 $230,859,000 $10,000,000
Native American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $54,500,000
Ex-Offender Activities NA $93,079,000 $100,000,000 $93,079,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $98,896,000 $88,896,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $127,500,000 $89,534,000
Senior Community Service Employment Program NA $400,000,000 $463,800,000 $400,000,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,868,655,000 $1,718,655,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,262,598,000 $1,300,000,000 $1,262,598,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $664,555,000 $641,955,000