Congress unveils FY 2016 omnibus appropriations package; funding increases for key workforce and education programs

By Katie Spiker, December 16, 2015


On Friday, December 18th, the President signed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 “omnibus” spending bill that will fund government operations through September 30, 2016. The legislation includes critical funding increases across a range of key workforce and education programs, as well as new funding to support apprenticeship.


Early this morning, the House Appropriations Committee released text of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 “omnibus” spending bill that will fund government operations through September 30, 2016. The bill includes critical funding increases across a range of key workforce, adult education, and career and technical education programs, as well as new funding to support apprenticeship. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the omnibus bill Thursday or Friday, clearing the measure for the President’s signature before the end of the week.

The omnibus reflects the higher spending limits agreed to by the White House and Congressional leaders as part of last month’s Bipartisan Budget Act, which lifted discretionary budget caps by $50 billion for FY 2016 and an additional $30 billion in FY 2017. Overall funding for programs under the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services was increased by $5.3 billion compared to FY 2015 levels.

The omnibus provides a boost in funding for WIOA formula state grants, including nearly $39 million in funding above current funding levels for WIOA Adult, roughly $42 million above current funding for WIOA Youth and a modest increase for formula funding for Dislocated Worker grants. The funding levels are consistent with the levels included in President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request, although below the statutorily authorized levels under WIOA. The spending package also restores the Governor’s reserve under WIOA to the statutory level of 15 percent, which will allow states to carry out an expanded range of statewide activities, including implementing WIOA requirements relating to the support of sector partnerships and career pathways strategies.

The bill includes $90 million in new funding for apprenticeship programs. These funds are intended to expand activities under the National Apprenticeship Act and will be used for competitive grant programs and other arrangements with States. The President has included a request for $100 million for apprenticeship expansion in his budget request.

Funding for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative is increased to $6 million, $2 million higher than 2015 levels but well below the President’s requested $37 million.

Under the Department of Education, the bill increases funding for adult basic education state grants under Title II of WIOA by approximately $13 million over FY 2015 levels, though Perkins career and technical education state grants did not receive an increase. The omnibus also includes language that updates the definition of eligible career pathway for students receiving federal financial aid under the “ability-to-benefit” (AtB) provisions in the Higher Education Act, aligning this language with the definition of career pathways found in WIOA, and restores eligibility for the maximum Pell award for AtB students. The omnibus also provides sufficient funding for the Pell grant program to support a maximum award of $5,915 for the 2016-2017 school, an increase of $140 over current levels.

The omnibus does not include policy language that was included in an earlier House appropriations bill this summer that would have blocked the Obama administration from implementing “gainful employment” regulations or the college ratings system unveiled by the Department of Education earlier this year.

National Skills Coalition applauds Congressional efforts to increase our federal skills investments, though we note that funding for many key workforce and education programs is still below FY 2010 levels. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to build on these increases in the years ahead, and ensuring that all workers and businesses have the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

Below is a chart of FY16 Omnibus funding levels for key workforce development and education programs. Click here to download the chart.