This week, members of Congress returned home to their states and districts for the July 4 holiday, a day which commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The document states that we have certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; yet, more than 8 percent of the workforce lacks one of the tools needed to pursue happiness – a job.
One such person is Tounta Adams, who was referred to Goodwill while living with her husband and children in her parents’ garage.
“We couldn’t even get jobs in the fast food restaurants,” says Tounta. “I was feeling emotionally and physically drained almost every single day and feeling like a horrible mother.”
Tounta’s story illustrates the importance of supportive services in addition to job training. Goodwill Industries of the Columbia’s community job program addressed several of her employment challenges such as transportation, diapers for her children and clothes vouchers.
She participated in Goodwill’s pre-vocation program, which led to her employment in Goodwill’s wares department. She hopes that her job at Goodwill will allow her to get her own place through the Kennewick Housing Authority.
Workforce Investment Act
Meanwhile, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) — he law that authorizes job training and employment services that aim to help people find jobs — remains expired, as it has since 2003. Congress has failed to update the law for nearly 10 years since it expired.
This year, Congress has a chance pass a WIA reauthorization bill. Fueled by concerns about the deficit, critics of the workforce system believe the final bill should consolidate programs and cut costs. While deficit reduction is important and will require belt-tightening measures, Congress should keep in mind that the workforce system has been chronically underfunded for many years.
In the time that Congress has left before adjourning, it should make job training a priority by enacting legislation that invests in job training while recognizing the importance of programs that help people to overcome their challenges to employment and their pursuit of happiness.