Senate appropriations bill makes deep cuts to workforce programs

June 01, 2015

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) spending bill. The Labor-HHS bill would reduce funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) formula programs by nearly 10 percent compared to FY 2015.

The committee began consideration of the Labor-HHS bill with a subcommittee markup on June 23, and advanced the bill to the full committee, where it was approved on June 25. In both instances, the bill was approved along party lines.

The Senate bill sets overall Labor-HHS spending at $153.2 billion, which is slightly higher than the House allocation, but $3.6 billion less than the FY 2015 level. The bill would reduce funding for WIOA Title I, II, and III by 5 percent, which would put funding for these programs near FY 2013 post-sequester levels. The bill would also reduce funding for a number of other education and training programs, including Native American programs, Ex-Offender activities, and Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs. Like the House Labor-HHS bill, the Senate bill eliminates funding for the Women Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) program.

The Senate bill also includes a $300 million rescission to the Pell Grant program. The bill still maintains the discretionary maximum award of $4,860, which will support a total maximum award – which includes mandatory Pell spending – of $5,915 in the 2016-2017 academic year.

During the subcommittee and full committee markups, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee, offered an amendment to boost funding for a number of Labor-HHS programs that included $765 million in additional funding for training and employment services under the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The amendment was defeated by a party line vote.

Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved its own Labor-HHS spending bill. For additional details on the House bill, see NSC’s earlier blog post.

Fiscal year 2016 begins October 1, 2015, so Congress must pass legislation to fund the government by September 30. Both the House and Senate have set overall spending levels for FY 2016 at the post-sequester level, and are moving forward with individual spending bills that reflect that overall level. President Obama has threatened to veto legislation that funds the government at the post-sequester level. National Skills Coalition will provide updates on the appropriations process as it moves forward. 

The following chart details current funding levels and proposed funding levels for key education and training programs in FY 2016.