A Labor Day Message to Protect Workforce Funding

by Mitch Coppes, Government Relations Senior Specialist, Goodwill Industries International

For many Americans, Labor Day marks the end of summer, the start of a new school year, and one last chance to enjoy the nice weather while gathered with family and friends over the long weekend. It’s also a time to take stock of the state of our nation’s workforce and how we can collectively work to improve employment and economic outcomes for all job seekers and career advancers. Even with an unemployment rate below four percent, employers struggle to find qualified workers to fill available positions. There were nearly 9 million job openings in July according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the number of people not in the labor force who currently want a job was over 5 million. Individuals facing persistent barriers to employment are often least equipped to take advantage of the growing need for skilled workers. Building a resilient and inclusive economy requires robust public investments in reskilling and upskilling our workforce.

Before leaving Washington for the month-long August recess, the House Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee approved a funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 that proposes to make significant cuts to essential employment and training programs. Specifically, the bill would rescind funding from Adult Employment and Training activities provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and would eliminate WIOA Youth Activities formula funding. The bill would also eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which would have a devastating impact on low-income older Americans who want to build their work experience and access the training they need to be competitive in today’s labor market. Indeed, these proposed cuts would disproportionately impact our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, individuals without high school diplomas, justice-involved individuals, and youth.

While the Senate Labor-HHS-ED funding bill would avoid making such drastic cuts, and even proposes some increases for certain education and workforce programs, the two chambers must now work to reconcile their differences in order to pass these vital funding bills. This Labor Day, we believe that protecting investments in the workforce should be a top priority for lawmakers. Visit our Legislative Action Center to share this message with your Members of Congress.