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Earlier today, President Trump released his Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget blueprint, also known as a “skinny” budget, outlining a set of proposals that would increase overall funding for defense programs while cutting approximately $54 billion in non-defense programs in the coming year. While the document is relatively light on details – a full budget proposal is expected later this spring – the proposal contains significant cuts to the Departments of Labor and Education.
The blueprint calls for $2.5 billion in cuts to the Department of Labor, or about 21 percent below current funding levels. The proposal specifically identifies about $500 million in cuts through the elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) – which is currently funded at around $434 million – and elimination of programs under the Bureau of International Labor Affairs and training grants under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The proposal does not provide clear guidance on where the remaining $2 billion in cuts would be made, but it indicates that there are likely to be major cuts to workforce and Wagner-Peyser Employment Service formula grants under WIOA, stating that more responsibility for these programs will be shifted to “States, localities, and employers.” The blueprint also indicates that some savings will be achieved through closing lower-performing Job Corps centers, though actual funding decreases are not specified.
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Given that combined funding for WIOA Title I training grants and ES formula grants is roughly $3.4 billion, this suggests potential cuts of up to 50 percent to these critical programs. Coming on top of years of disinvestment – state formula grants for Title I of the Workforce Investment Act and WIOA have been cut by nearly 40 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2001 – these cuts, if enacted, would have devastating consequences on state and local workforce systems and would severely limit the ability of jobseekers and businesses to get the necessary skills to compete in today’s economy. It is particularly disappointing to see these cuts proposed after Congress overwhelmingly passed reauthorization of WIOA in 2014, and states and local communities have undertaken significant efforts to modernize their workforce and employment services in response to the new requirements of the law.
The blueprint also includes approximately $9 billion in cuts to the Department of Education, or 13 percent below current funding levels. The budget would apparently maintain current discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program, but would cut about $3.9 billion in unspent prior year funding. Adult education programs under WIOA Title II and state formula grants under the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education Act are not referenced, which would seem to suggest that these programs will be level funded in the more detailed budget proposal that will be released later this spring. Funding for some smaller ED programs aimed at supporting working adults and other low-income students, like the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants program, TRIO programs, and Federal Work-Study is either eliminated or significantly reduced.
Other departments that would be cut include the Department of Health and Human Services, which would see a reduction of $15.1 billion or nearly 18 percent relative to current levels, including the elimination of the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) program; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which would be cut by $6.2 billion (13.2 percent), including the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant program.
National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training, postsecondary education, and other human services programs. On Tuesday, NSC joined with more than 30 other national organizations as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce on a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, strongly encouraging him to ensure that the final budget proposal rejects unnecessary cuts to workforce and education, and instead support meaningful investments in the skills of U.S. workers and businesses.
Workforce advocates have an opportunity to weigh in as well. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) have just released a “Dear Colleague” letter to the House appropriations subcommittee that will be overseeing final FY’18 funding decisions for Labor, Education, and HHS programs, and calls for increased funding for critical workforce programs.
Please take a moment to send a message to your Representative urging them to sign on to the Dear Colleague, and show their support for the vital work that workforce, education, and human services programs are doing across the country.