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Legislative Updates

GI Expansion Bill

On August 16, President Trump signed H.R. 3218 – the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 that would provide a $3 billion expansion of veterans’ education benefits. The bill would increase education benefits, remove the 15-year limit on when recipients must use their benefits for new enlistees, and provide support for veterans enrolled in non-traditional education programs such as coding boot camps. The bill would also restore funding for veterans impacted by the collapse of several training schools. The Vet-Tec Act, sponsored by Congressman Khanna, is part of the legislative package and would implement a new pilot program to test how the GI Bill can help veterans learn job skills for the tech economy. This bill will have a tremendous impact on veterans seeking to gain access to jobs in the growing technology industry.

Senate Confirms Labor Secretary Nominee Acosta

On April 27, the Senate confirmed Labor Secretary Nominee Alexander Acosta. Secretary Acosta begins his tenure in a tense climate outside the Labor Department among workers across the country and within the Labor Department with future actions expected on former President Obama’s executive orders on overtime rules, wages and the fiduciary rule. While Secretary Acosta is seen as a better alternative to President Trump’s first choice for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his name amidst controversy, concerns have been expressed regarding Secretary Acosta’s commitment to defend workers on issues that may conflict with the White House administration.

Congress Passes Temporary Spending Plan in May

On May 5, President Trump signed a nearly $1.2 trillion spending plan that funds government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30). The spending plan includes a $15 billion increase in funding for defense and a $1.5 billion increase for border security that does not include funding for building a wall, with corresponding cuts to non-defense discretionary programs including the Department of Labor. The plan calls for a $83 million cut to the Department of Labor below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and rescinds $75 million from the Employment and Training Administration; however, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act formula funding for adults, dislocated workers and youth will remain at fiscal year 2016 spending levels. The approved spending plan was passed by the deadline, thereby averting a government shutdown.

When Congress returns in September after the August recess, it will be deliberating over a new spending plan and raising the debt ceiling. There is significant concern that workforce development funding will face draconian cuts further exacerbating the erosion of workforce funding experienced by local workforce boards for many years. Local workforce development programs need more funding not less in order to provide employers with the talent they need to succeed and prepare workers for jobs in demand-driven industries.

President’s Budget Released

On May 23, the White House released President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. The $4.1 trillion budget mirrors the President’s previous “Skinny” budget outline that calls for a 10 percent increase in military spending, $1.6 billion allocated for the creation of a border wall, cuts to the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and the elimination of the estate tax, with corresponding cuts to domestic programs to pay for this totaling $3.6 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. The Labor department would receive a $2.5 billion cut or a 21 percent reduction, with significant cuts to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)-funded programs which includes a $1.3 billion cut to the WIOA formula-funded grants that represents a nearly 40 percent reduction from current funding levels. This would be devastating to state and local workforce development boards. The budget also eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker training program.

Executive Order on Apprenticeships

On June 15, as part of “Workforce Development Week”, President Trump issued an Executive Order that would eliminate government oversight of apprenticeship grants, providing third-party entities with much more control over establishing apprenticeship standards raising concerns about sufficient accountability. At the same time, federal agencies were asked to review and eliminate job-training programs that are viewed as ineffective. The Department of Labor is expected to increase the funding available for apprenticeship grants from $90 million to nearly $200 million, with a focus on increasing access for students from accredited secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.