Late Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending measure that would provide temporary funding through November 18 to keep the federal government operating once the next fiscal year (FY 2012) begins on October 1. In response, the Senate voted 59-36 to defeat the bill, setting up a House-Senate game of “government shutdown chicken.” While it remains unclear how a final agreement will be accomplished, this development is a clear indicator of the difficulties we can expect in Congress in the near future.
In the midst of the wrangling taking place over temporary spending for FY 2012, House and Senate committees that have jurisdiction over final FY 2012 spending measures are working on their respective bills. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to provide FY 2012 funding for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education. That bill proposes to provide $158 billion in discretionary funding for a wide range of programs including several programs that support local Goodwill® agencies’ efforts to help people find jobs and advance in careers.
The Senate FY 2012 Labor, HHS, Education bill would provide:
- Approximately $2.6 billion for the Workforce Investment Act’s Adult, Youth, and Dislocated Workers funding streams
- $100 million for a Workforce Innovation Fund, a decrease compared to approximately $124 million in FY 2011
- Nearly $450 million for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the same amount provided in FY 2011
- More than $3.1 billion for vocational rehabilitation grants to states, an increase from nearly $3.1 billion in FY 2011
- Sufficient funds to maintain the maximum Pell grant award at $5,550.
It is uncertain how funding for these programs and others will be dealt with in the House which has agreed to spending less money to support programs administered by the Departments of Labor, HHS and Education. In addition, congressional attention will increasingly focus on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which has been tasked with developing a plan to cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. While Democrats insist that the plan should include spending cuts and tax increases to raise revenues, Republicans assert that tax increases would slow economic growth – resulting in less revenue.
Reducing the deficit is a serious issue that will require all to make sacrifices to address the nation’s spending problem while investing in integrated strategies that build upon and leverage existing resources in communities that will address our nation’s revenue problem. As the current fiscal year winds to a close, Goodwill stands ready to work closely with policymakers to develop solutions to the serious problems, such as high unemployment and mounting deficits, our nation faces.