On June 7, the House Education and the Workforce Committee “marked-up” the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (HR 4297), a bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill was originally introduced by Representative Foxx (R-NC), Heck (R-NV), and McKeon (R-CA). The bill was reported out of committee on a party-line voteof 23-15.
As originally introduced, HR 4297 consolidates more than two dozen existing federal workforce programs (including current WIA formula and national programs, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, SNAP E&T, Job Corps, and others) into a single $6 billion Workforce Investment Fund, which would be allocated to states and localities by formula. In addition, the bill:
- Eliminates all current membership requirements for state and local workforce boards, except for certain requirements relating to business and economic development representation, and locally elected officials;
- Eliminates provisions relating to automatic designation of local workforce areas, allowing state boards to designate local areas in consultation with the governor;
- Reduces the governor’s set-aside for statewide activities from 15 percent to 5 percent of a state’s Workforce Investment Fund allotment, effectively codifying a provision that was included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 and 2012 appropriations bills;
- Requires states to reserve no more than 18 percent of Workforce Investment Fund allotments for new State Youth Challenge Grants;
- Requires states to reserve 2 percent of Workforce Investment Fund allotments for grants to serve adults with barriers to employment;
- Eliminates the requirement that local WIBs give priority for services to low-income individuals;
- Authorizes states to develop unified state plans, and consolidate funding for other federal training and social services programs—including funding for TANF, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Community Services Block
- Grants, and programs under state unemployment compensation laws—into such state plans;
- Mandates a minimum percentage of local area allocations that must be used for training services; and
- Sets common performance measures for the Workforce Investment Fund, adult education programs under Title II, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs under Title IV.
During the mark-up, Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chair Foxx (R-NC) offered a substitute amendment that made several important changes to the bill, including:
- Removing Job Corps from the list of consolidated programs and instead authorizes the Secretary of Labor to hold 28 percent of funding under the Workforce Investment Fund to maintain Job Corps as a national program;
- Eliminating the Youth Challenge Grants (which means there is no designated funding at all for youth at the state or local level);
- Adding new definitions of “out-of-school” and “at-risk” youth;
- Adding new definitions of an “industry or sector partnership,” an “industry-recognized credential,” and a “recognized postsecondary credential”;
- Adding examples of the types of individuals or organizations that may serve on state or local WIBs (including members elected officials, organizations that have experience working with youth, education and training providers such as community colleges and community-based organizations, and agency officials);
- Eliminating National Emergency Grants (NEGs) and reduces the funding that the Secretary of Labor shall hold at the national level from 2 percent of the total funds under the Workforce Investment fund to ½ of 1 percent, 50 percent of which shall be used for technical assistance and 50 percent of which shall be used for evaluation;
- Creating a new “hold-harmless” provision for state and local allocations in FY 2013;
- Establishing the statewide set-aside at 10 percent (below the 15 percent under current law, but above the 5 percent enacted through appropriation in FY 2011 and 2012 and previously codified in HR 4297); and
- Shifting the “Statewide Adults with Barriers to Employment Grants” to “Statewide Individuals with Barriers to Employment Grants.” Committee Republicans indicated it was their intent that these grants would now serve at-risk and low-income youth as well as adults, although funding for the grants—2 percent of a state’s allocation under the Workforce Investment Fund—is unchanged.
The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
During the mark-up, committee members offered almost 25 amendments for consideration, the majority of which failed on party-line votes (or very close to). Amendments offered included:
- A substitute amendment offered by Rep. Tierney (D-MA) that would have replaced HR 4297 with the Democrats WIA reauthorization bill (HR 4227). The amendment failed on 15-23 vote.
- An amendment by Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX) that would have included community colleges, CBOs, and unions as mandatory WIB partners; restored the priority of services for low-income individuals; and restored supportive services as an allowable use of funds. Rep. Hinojosa also offered the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act (HR 2226) as a substitute amendment. The amendments were defeated en bloc on a 14-23 vote.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Scott (D-VA) to support summer and year-round youth employment programs. The amendment failed on a 15-23 vote. Rep. Scott also offered an amendment that would have set-aside 25 percent of local-level funding under the Workforce Investment Fund to serve youth, which was similarly defeated 16-22.
- Rep. Bishop (D-NY) offered an amendment requiring governors to prohibit companies that outsource jobs from serving on State WIBs or receiving incumbent working training funds. The amendment failed on a 15-23 vote.
- Rep. Platts (R-PA) offered an amendment to restore YouthBuild as a national program. The amendment failed on 17-21 vote.
- Rep. Holt (D-NJ) offered an amendment to cap spending for incumbent worker training at 15 percent. The amendment was withdrawn (no vote).
- Rep. Miller (D-CA) offered a school construction amendment, which failed on 15-23 vote.
- Rep. Loebsack (D-IA) offered an amendment to set-aside 5 percent of a state’s allocation under the Workforce Investment Fund for an “Employer Engagement Fund” that would be used to fund competitive sector partnership grants at the state level (modeled on the SECTORS Act). The amendment failed on a 17-21 vote.
Amendments that were accepted included:
- An amendment offered by Rep. Heck (R-NV) that requires state and local WIBs to include representatives of small businesses among their business representatives. The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Noem (R-SD) that increases from 1 to 2 percent the set-aside at the national level for programs that serve Native Americans. The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Scott (D-VA) that includes the long-term unemployed in the list of special populations which must be included in state and local plans. The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Andrews (D-NJ) that states disaggregate performance data by populations listed in local plans; maintain a publicly available central repository of policies related to access, eligibility, and availability of services, and other matters decided by state and local boards; and track spending data, including the amount of money spent on training, disaggregated by populations listed in state and local plans. The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Davis (D-CA), as amended by Rep. Foxx (R-NC), specifying that organizations serving veterans may serve on state and local WIBs. The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
[NOTE: A full list of amendments, including the roll call vote on each, is available on the committee’s website]
Prior to the mark-up, a number of organizations—including National Skills Coalition—weighed in expressing their concerns with HR 4297. Unfortunately, many of the changes made during mark-up do little to improve the bill and many actually make it worse. As a result, National Skills Coalition opposes the bill as it is currently written. It is our hope that the committee will work together between now and when the bill is brought to the floor for a vote to improve the bill and develop a bipartisan solution to reforming our nation’s federal workforce development system.
NSC will provide updates as additional information becomes available.