House Workforce Legislation Would Consolidate Training Programs

On Tuesday, April 14, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to explore the merits of recently-released bills that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

 The hearing occurred on the very day that approximately 200 representatives from local Goodwill® agencies across the country met with more than 320 congressional offices to urge Congress to provide adequate funding for job training programs while improving existing job training programs by reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act.

In opening remarks, Rep. George Miller, the committee’s ranking Democrat recognized Goodwill leaders in the audience representing local Goodwill agencies from Oakland, Los Angeles, Boston, Michigan and San Francisco.

“Those agencies are an example of how federal investments can leverage additional resources and expertise to help to get people back to work and onto career paths,” he said.

At the center of the discussion is whether to consolidate a number of job training programs, and if so, how many. The Republican proposal would consolidate 27 job training programs into a single block grant to states.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R-NC), a cosponsor, emphasized that President Obama called for a consolidation of workforce training programs in his State of the Union address; that seven of targeted programs would also be consolidated under a Democratic version of the bill (HR 4227); and five others have either never been funded or haven’t been funded for years.

Rep. Miller retorted that he had “serious concerns” about the Republican version, specifically its proposal to consolidate 27 programs into one fund. “It allows limited resources to be funneled away from where they are needed the most,” he said.

Despite their differences, committee members recognized that there is potential for a bipartisan path forward. “I can see some of the larger issues are difficult to deal with, but I don’t think they are insurmountable,” said Rep. John Tierney (D-MA); while Rep. Foxx noted that “there are places where we can agree on what needs to be in the bill that we pass.”

The committee also discussed moving forward with the legislative process soon by marking up a bill very soon; however a markup has yet to be scheduled. If the Committee does mark up a bill, the core partisan differences are likely to be vigorously debated. Goodwill will continue to urge for bi-partisan efforts to pass a bill that builds upon the strengths of the workforce system while making long-needed improvements.