As the nation slowly recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression and unemployment remains high, job training programs face a dual threat this year. On the immediate front, automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1 threaten to cut funding for these programs by more than 5 percent. On the second front, House Republicans are expected to soon introduce legislation that proposes to consolidate job training programs in the name of reform. Some policymakers, fueled by concerns about the deficit, may find such a proposal very tempting.
The funding threat: Over the past several years, the federal investment in job training, which leverages Goodwill, has steadily eroded over time – a 25 percent decrease since 2002 when unemployment was just 5.8 percent. As a result, the workforce system’s resources are already stretched critically thin. Goodwill is very concerned that additional decreases would have a drastic effect on its programs and the people who participate in them. If sequestration is allowed to occur, funding for job training programs would be cut by more than $130 million resulting in at least 270,000 fewer people served.
The legislative threat: On February 14, House Democrats reintroduced their bill to reauthorize the primary law, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), that shapes and authorizes funding for job training. According to their press release, the bill would “modernize the current system by promoting more effective coordination among local stakeholders… and encourage innovation and best practices throughout the system.” On the other side of the aisle, House Republicans are soon expected to introduce a bill that is expected to propose consolidating several job training programs into a general “block grant” to states. Proponents of the workforce system, including Goodwill, are concerned that a consolidated block grant would lack the sophistication needed to appropriately direct resources to address unique target populations’ needs and challenges.
Action Needed: Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents that job training is important to our economic recovery. At a time when unemployment remains high, these resources are an important part of the nation’s economic recovery and job creation effort.