This week, advocates for the workforce system are poring over a discussion draft of a bill that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The draft was released to key stakeholders — including Goodwill — by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Not updated since its enactment in 1998 and having expired in 2003, the bill’s release, albeit tardy, is a welcome action.
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report called for greater alignment, coordination and streamlining of job training programs, giving fodder to critics to call for significant funding cuts for programs authorized by WIA.
In May, House appropriators approved spending allocations that allow $139.2 billion in discretionary appropriations for the FY 2012 spending bill that provides funding for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. This total is 12 percent less than the amount appropriated for FY 2011 and 23 percent below Obama’s budget request.
Hundreds of pages in length, the Senate WIA discussion draft attempts to address concerns raised by the GAO report. For example, the discussion draft proposes to allow states to submit “combined state plans” for core programs in lieu of submitting two or more plans for different activities and programs. Allowing states to submit joint plans would likely help states to develop strategies that more clearly articulate linkages among unique programs that reduce employment barriers for the populations they serve.
Goodwill’s Role in WIA Reauthorization
The Senate HELP Committee has asked national membership organizations to review the discussion draft with members and to submit comments based on member feedback by June 17. GII’s public policy team reviewed key parts of the discussion draft with its 164-member network, and is preparing to submit comments on behalf of its membership by the HELP Committee’s deadline. The consensus established during the webinar is that the bill reflects several key issues that Goodwill has raised with policymakers, including:
- Changing performance measures to remove disincentives to serving so-called “harder-to-serve” populations
- Allowing community-based organizations to compete for Workforce Innovation and Replication Funds, a new funding source that the discussion draft proposes to create
- Strengthening CBO participation on local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs)
- Requiring 60 percent of youth formula funds to be spent on out-of-school youth.
After the comment period has closed, the HELP Committee is expected to make changes to the bill to reflect some of the comments it receives. The updated bill will be formally introduced in the Senate in time for the HELP Committee to consider the bill during a “mark up,” already scheduled for June 29.