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Last week, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) appropriations subcommittee released its fiscal year (FY) 2015 spending bill. The bill, which is unlikely to move forward before the August recess, would increase funding for certain WIA programs.
The Senate Labor-H bill provides for increases in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) formula funds as well as increases to other workforce programs, including migrant and seasonal farmworker programs, Native American programs, YouthBuild, and reintegration for ex-offenders programs. The bill would increase the governor’s reserve to 10 percent (up from 8.75 percent in FY 2014), and would maintain current funding levels for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative and Women in Apprenticeships and Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO). Though it does increase funding in some areas, citing budget constraints, the bill does not include funding for the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), WIA incentive grants, or sector strategies grants (as proposed in the President’s FY 2015 budget).
Typically, the Appropriations committee releases the Labor-H bill and corresponding committee report after the bill has been approved by the full committee during markup. However in June, just after the Labor-H subcommittee marked-up the Labor-H bill, advancing it full committee, the full committee canceled its scheduled markup. Given that the committee doesn’t have immediate plans to take up the bill, it is unlikely that it will move before the August recess.
When Congress returns in September it will have less than two weeks to pass comprehensive spending legislation for FY 2015 before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. Rather than attempting to pass comprehensive legislation in those two weeks, Congress will likely instead pass a short-term stopgap bill to fund the government either through the November elections or until the new Congress is seated in January. If Congress passes a short-term “continuing resolution” that simply maintains funding levels from the previous fiscal year, sequestration will be applied as an across-the-board cut. If Congress instead chooses to set specific funding levels for each program, an across-the-board cut will be avoided.
While it is a positive sign that the Senate appropriators provided for funding increases for some workforce programs, the funding levels proposed in the bill are still insufficient to meet our nation’s needs. The constraints imposed on the Appropriations committee by budgetary spending caps and the sequester make it nearly impossible to make adequate investments in education and training programs and other discretionary programs. NSC has strongly urged Congress to find a long-term solution to end sequestration and lift the budgetary caps and will continue to weigh in with policymakers on funding as the appropriations process moves forward.