Set of House Democrats release bill to invest $15.6 billion in workforce to respond to Covid-19 crisis

By Katie Spiker, May 01, 2020

On Friday, May 1st, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), along with Representatives Andy Levin, Suzanne Bonamici, Susan Davis, Joaquin Castro, Marcia Fudge, Lucy McBath, Susie Lee, Haley Stevens, Joe Courtney, Steven Horsford and Angie Craig and Senators Patty Murray, Tim Kaine, Tina Smith and Tammy Baldwin introduced the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act (RAWA). The bill is intended to attach to future stimulus packages passed to respond to Covid-19 and its economic impact and is consistent with advocacy from National Skills Coalition and our partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce. Earlier stimulus packages included minimal investments in skills, with the CARES Act providing only $345 million in funding for WIOA’s Dislocated Worker National Reserve.

This bill is a critical step to investing in skills workers need today to respond to our crisis and those businesses will need once we look to economic recovery. Inclusion of this funding in any future stimulus package – and even the timeline for that package – are far from guaranteed, however. NSC urges partners to call your members of Congress to express the importance of this investment and to sign your organization on here to a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for investments in our workforce consistent with the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act.

RAWA would provide significant new appropriations for state formula grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) and for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) as well as for WIOA national grant programs and registered apprenticeship programs. The bill would more than double state grants under WIOA, $2.5 billion of new funding for each of the Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth allocations and AEFLA, with a new $1 billion in funding. It would also almost double funding for CTE, adding an addition $1 billion in state formula funding.

The bill would also modernize the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program, first authorized under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009, and reinvest $2 billion over three years to support partnerships between community and technical colleges and industry partners with funds to be used for both equipment and training costs.

The workforce and postsecondary education system stand ready to prepare workers at the front line of addressing our current crisis – healthcare workers who need training in respiratory specialties, workers to manufacture person protective equipment and transportation, distribution and logistics experts to respond to deliver these essentials. These are also systems that have trained and donated hospital beds to overburdened healthcare systems, are rapidly responding to match an unprecedented number of unemployed workers with job openings and are serving as navigators as people in communities across the country try to access Unemployment Insurance and other public benefits.

The system is also drastically underfunded compared to historic levels, international peers and our own needs. In 2008, prior to our last recession, the workforce system was funded at levels 25% higher than today and saw a significant increase in supplemental funding as part of ARRA. Currently, the U.S. underinvests compared to other industrialized countries and would need to invest $80 billion annually just to reach the median level of our international peers.

RAWA takes a first step to committing to our workers, businesses and communities that the U.S. will respond adequately to our current crisis and help address its economic impact.

In addition to increases in funding, the bill provides state and local workforce areas with flexibilities to help them respond to the current crisis including expanding eligibility for WIOA programs to anyone eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, allows boards to use up to 40% of new funding for incumbent worker training and for transitional jobs, and allows the Governor to reserve additional funding beyond the existing 15% Governor’s Reserve to support areas in the state most impacted by Covid-19.

Congress is currently recessed, although the Senate is expected to return next week to continue negotiations on further legislative responses to the current crisis. Any next stimulus package is likely to originate with House Democrats, and this bill is an important marker of the first step necessary to respond to worker and business’ immediate and short-term need for public investment in workforce programming.

In April, National Skills Coalition, along with more than 40 other national organizations, submitted a letter to House and Senate leadership calling on investments of at least $15 billion in our public workforce, adult education and postsecondary education systems. Representatives Bonamici and Levin also sent a letter to House leadership calling for this same level of investment that garnered support from 48 members. On the Senate side, Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Merkley (D-OR) led a similar letter to Senate leaders calling for consistent funding levels in future stimulus packages.

NSC will continue to work with national and state partners to push for both a next stimulus package and for that package to include critical investments in skills.

Sign your organization on here to tell Congress – investments in skills are critical to respond to our current crisis and its economic impact.

FY2020 Funding Levels RAWA proposes supplemental funding
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 – State Formula Grants $2,819,832,000 $7,500,000,000
WIOA Adult $854,649,000 $2,500,000,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,052,053,00 $2,500,000,000
WIOA Youth $913,130,000 $2,500,000,000
Wagner-Peyser / Employment Service Grants $668,000,000 $1,000,000,000
Workforce Data Quality Inititative Grants $6,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants $175,000,000 $500,000,000
DW National Reserve $270,859,000 $500,000,000
Native American Programs $55,000,000 $150,000,000
Ex-offender Activities $98,079,000 $350,000,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers $91,896,000 $150,000,000
Youth Build $94,534,000 $250,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Programs $405,000,000
JobCorps $1,743,655,000 $500,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants $1,282,598,000 $1,000,000,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $656,955,000 $1,000,000,000