On Tuesday, President Obama put forth his final budget, for FY 2017, in which he proposed increases in several workforce programs. Overall, the budget tops the four trillion dollar mark at $4.15 trillion, higher than his last budget but most of the increase is allocated toward Social Security and Medicare.
I visited the Hudson County Jail in northern New Jersey. Twenty years later, I can still vividly remember the rhythmic sound of sturdy locks opening, followed by heavy doors slamming shut, and then the locks swinging back home. It was a deafening and consistent reminder to the residents of that institution that they were “inmates” who were very, very bad.
Last year, Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The moment represented a bipartisan beacon of hope on Capitol Hill. Goodwill Industries International was pleased with the overall outcome in this new Act which provides opportunities for community based organizations, like Goodwill, to do more to help people build their skills and connect with career opportunities.
Last week, I received a phone call from Audrey, a woman in Wisconsin who was seeking help for her brother, Frank. He has recently been released from prison after serving a 20-year sentence and needs help finding a job. The harsh reality is that without support and resources, Frank’s chances of recidivating are overwhelming.
Both the House and Senate are due to complete work on their respective budget resolutions this week, right before leaving town for a two week recess. The budget resolutions don’t become law, but they do set the spending targets for the current fiscal year, creating one possible blueprint for spending and tax policy for the next 10 years.
The 113th Congress comes to a close this week and lawmakers are probably just as happy as the American public to put the last two years behind them and start anew. A recent Gallup poll reported that Congressional approval ratings are just one point higher than last year at 15 percent. Under this Congress we’ve seen a government shutdown and the invocation of the nuclear option (a Senate procedure allowing a rule or precedent to be overridden). However, there were some moments worth celebrating, particularly during the second session of the Congress this year.
“The workplace and skills that are needed has been changing rapidly. I was very intrigued by the partnership between community programs, technical colleges and businesses that you’ve developed. I’m so eager to hear from you today," said Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) upon visiting Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota's construction and automotive training facility.
The message I would have for employers is to be open minded. I do understand that there’s a huge stigma attached to people who have been incarcerated. That stigma, a lot of times, is generated by what people know, which is unfortunately what they see on television and what they read in the newspaper. That only portrays a very small part of what people who have been incarcerated are.
Congress recessed last week until after Labor Day for its traditional August recess. For most of us, it’s a time for travel and vacations. Here in Washington, it’s also a time for reflecting on what has been accomplished and what remains to be done that can be done. So, here is a quick recap of this Congress’ achievement and what remains.
Following the Senate’s overwhelming 95–3 vote in June, the House voted 415–6 on July 9 to approve H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The bill will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.