About Us
E Join Our Mailing List

News > Skills Blog

Posts About Federal Funding

Analysis: Third stimulus package lacks comprehensive strategy to respond to urgent workforce needs today

  ·   By Katie Spiker and Katie Brown
Analysis: Third stimulus package lacks comprehensive strategy to respond to urgent workforce needs today

On March 26th the Senate voted on a third stimulus package to address the current CoVid-19 pandemic and its economic impact.

The bill included important provisions for workers who have lost their jobs – federal support for expanded “Pandemic unemployment insurance” that would add an extra $600 a week to unemployment insurance payments and $345 million in national grants to support activities to serve dislocated workers. It also included access to loans for businesses – and nonprofits – to cover payroll costs during the economic downturn and federal support for layoff aversion strategies like job sharing.

It lacked, however, the vision of a comprehensive national strategy to support workers’ ability to reenter the workforce after job loss. The bill also doesn’t do enough to empower businesses to rapidly upskill and reskill workers to respond to immediate workforce needs in healthcare, manufacturing or transportation, distribution, and logistics industries.

Bipartisan agreement on a nearly $2 trillion package to support workers and businesses is an undeniable win in time of national and international crisis. This crisis has stress-tested our unemployment, workforce, and education systems, however, and the package fails to address the woefully inadequate investment and support we provide workers once they lose their jobs and on their path to reemployment in industries in which businesses need workers today.

This package is the third in a series of stimulus packages over the past couple of weeks. Earlier versions provided federal support for extended Unemployment Insurance benefits, paid sick leave for workers, and waived time restrictions on access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for certain individuals.

As we look to an undeniably necessary fourth stimulus package, Congress and the administration should use that opportunity to reach bipartisan agreement on a bill that supports a national system with training, income, and healthcare supports for workers who lose their jobs. The next package must also address industry’s immediate needs so that our businesses, workers, and communities aren’t left waiting for a Congressional response that may be too little too late.

On March 19th, National Skills Coalition sent a letter to Congressional leadership with comprehensive recommendations for any stimulus package that would address needs of workers, businesses, and communities. On March 21, NSC along with more than 30 other national organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for vital investments in workforce programming as part of any response to CoVid-19 and its economic impacts. We look forward to continuing this work with our network of practitioners and businesses and with national partners to elevate the critical role workforce training plays in preparing workers with skills necessary to respond to the immediate crisis and its economic impact. 

We will release additional analysis in the coming days of where policymakers should look to rectify these challenges as part of a fourth stimulus package.

What’s included in the third stimulus package

1. Supplemental appropriations for Dislocated Worker National Reserve (DWNR) Funds: The bill includes $345 million in new funding for the DWNR; national grants to support training and career services for workers who have lost their jobs due to CoVid-19. This investment will be critical to states’ ability to serve dislocated workers but is woefully inadequate to respond to the actual level of needs businesses and workers face today.

In the 2009 stimulus package, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), Congress invested $1.25 billion in formula dollars to states to support dislocated worker activities, combined with an additional nearly $3 billion in other workforce funding streams. During that economic downturn, the workforce system experienced a 234 percent increase in the number of Americans seeking reemployment and training services and the system served more than 8 million people in 2009.

The public workforce system is poised today to address challenges faced by workers who are dislocated as a result of COVID-19 and need rapid retraining to enter in-demand jobs, like those in healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing.  But the system needs adequate investment to respond to the scale of need it is already facing.

2.  Reauthorization of the TANF block grant and targeted funds for training TANF-eligible workers for healthcare careers: The bill includes a clean extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through November 30, 2020. It also includes an extention of the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) until November 30, 2020, allowing grantees a longer time period to spend existing dollars. HPOG grants go to partnerships between healthcare providers and workforce and education providers to empower TANF-eligible workers to access training for healthcare careers and to fund support services – like access to childcare and transportation – that ensure workers with the greatest skills needs can succeed in this training. Current HPOG grantees are set to finish out their grant cycle this year and the House has introduced a reauthorization bill to expand HPOG grants, and significantly increase funding for these grants, in what would be the third round of the program. 

3. Layoff aversion strategies for small businesses and nonprofits: The bill includes access to up to $10 million in loans to businesses and nonprofits, including veterans’ organizations, to support payroll, insurance premiums, rent, and other costs incurred during the crisis. The bill also includes access to loan forgiveness provisions, tied to organizations maintaining employment levels and not laying off employees.

It provides federal support for Short-Time compensation (STC) – programs that enable workers to access a portion of their UI benefits when companies reduce their hours by 20%, enabling businesses to avert layoffs and reduce public UI costs. For states that already support STC, the bill would contribute 100% of cost of new claims. For states setting up new STC systems, federal funding would support both set up costs and 50% of claims.

The inclusion of nonprofit organizations in the loans provision is critical to workforce providers’ and human service organizations capacity to continue to serve clients during this time of crisis. For many local practitioners, the forced move to remote services means they’re helping clients in new ways – often without access to national or state grant funding to provide services like trying to access unemployment claims or meet work requirements associated with SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Need Families benefits.

These loans will be critical to enabling a robust network of training and human service organizations persist during the crisis, but it will be vital that nonprofits are able to access loan funds and are not penalized as being risky loan recipients based on low capital resources or other standards.

4. Resources for postsecondary institutions and the students they serve: Thousands of postsecondary institutions have had to close their doors to keep educators, students, and others safe during this pandemic. However, the needs of these institutions and students have not dissipated—rather, they have increased. As a result, the bill looks to provide emergency grant funding to both graduate and undergraduate students by expanding the Supplemental Economic Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program. SEOG grants aim to provide students with the most financial need with funding to offset the overall cost of their education. These expanded grants are meant to help students cover any unforeseen costs associated with COVID-19.

The bill also equips institutions to provide students enrolled in the Federal Work Study (FWS) program with the payments they anticipated receiving in exchange for their FWS service for the duration of the academic year. Additionally, if a student is unable to finish their coursework due to COVID-19 related issues, any Pell grants they used to cover the cost of enrollment will not count against their lifetime Pell eligibility.

In terms of direct support for postsecondary institutions, the bill provides $14.25 billion in funding to institutions of higher education to support students facing urgent needs related to coronavirus, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures. This provides targeted formula funding to institutions of higher education, as well as funding for minority serving institutions and HBCUs.

5. Increased funding for supportive services, including childcare, housing and mental health services to states: The importance of supportive services for students, workers, and families cannot be overstated—particularly during times of crisis. Countless individuals across the U.S. have had to leave their jobs, drastically reduce their hours, adjust to remote work or schooling, or work overtime depending on their circumstances.

In recognition of this, the bill provides $3.5 billion in Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG)  to states for immediate assistance to child care providers to prevent them from going out of business and also to support child care for families, including healthcare workers, first responders, and others playing critical roles during this crisis.

The bill also provides $425 million in funding to address mental health and substance use disorders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It makes housing resources available under the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for elderly, disabled, veteran, homeless, and low-income populations are funded at $17.4 billion.


Posted In: Federal Funding

Responding to the crisis before us

  ·   By Rachel Unruh & Katie Spiker
Responding to the crisis before us

Update March 26: On March 19, National Skills Coalition sent a letter  to Congressional leadership detailing these comprehensive recommendations that would address needs of workers, businesses, and communities. On March 21, NSC along with more than 30 other national organizations, sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for vital investments in workforce programming as part of any response to CoVid-19 and its economic impacts. For more on our analysis of the federal response to CoVid-19 and its economic impacts, see our blog here.

March 18 – The financial, emotional, and physical toll that the COVID-19 health pandemic has put on our country can’t be overstated. This is a time for federal policymakers to come together – using every policy lever possible, every public resource available – to do everything we can to immediately protect and support workers and small businesses. Based on principles informed by our networks, National Skills Coalition has developed the following policy goals for an immediate stimulus package to assist workers who need income, healthcare, and housing today and to shore up small and mid-sized businesses trying to keep their doors open. You can read the full reccomendations sent to Capitol Hill here. We know there are people who will suffer the impacts of this crisis more acutely and in inequitable ways and we are working with our network to develop policy solutions that could be in subsequent stimulus efforts over the next couple months.  

Working with our networks, National Skills Coalition will release more detailed recommendations under these goals in the coming weeks. To stay informed about these recommendations, how we’re working with Congress to advance them, and how any passed legislation will impact your local community, please sign up for our email list. 

Immediate Responses for a National Stimulus 

Remove all barriers to our nation’s safety net: Immediately remove barriers to the existing federal safety net including health, food, housing, and cash assistance. 

Congress is currently considering suspension of a rule that will make it harder for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) to get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Congress should suspend all work-related restrictions for all safety net programs and give recipients significantly more time to get back into family supporting jobs. 

Provide comprehensive income, healthcare, and re-training support to all displaced workers: Guarantee access to income replacement, healthcare, and re-training for any displaced worker, including contingent workers. 

America’s existing Trade Adjustment Assistance program provides these robust, comprehensive benefits, but it is only available to workers displaced by trade. This level of benefits must be expanded to all forms of economic displacement, including pandemics, and all types of workers including contingent workers. Universal, expanded access to supports necessary to help effectively and efficiently connect dislocated workers to good jobs would be a more targeted and more comprehensive solution than current Universal Basic Income proposals which only provide income replacement. 

Help small and mid-sized business avert layoffs: Help businesses keep their employees while they are paid and re-trained during and in the aftermath of COVID-19, including for jobs that are themselves rapidly changing with new technology. 

Current tax policydoes not empower businesses to invest reskilling workers, particularly those with the greatest skill needs. Congressional changes to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit could provide targeted tax credits that support investments in retraining and will be a more effective way to support retraining and retention of workers than payroll tax incentives to all businesses. 

Additional Short-Term Responses for Subsequent Stimulus Efforts 

Address immediate shortages in industries needed to respond to crisis: Industries like healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing are essential to responding to COVID-19 and are already facing severe shortages of trained workers. Congress can tee up Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as quickly as possible to get as much money on the ground as possible to train displaced workers for these jobs and to ensure capacity is in place when community colleges and training providers re-open physical classrooms.  

Update education and training policies to respond to marketplace disruption: Update our higher education policies to support the infrastructure and flexibility required for short-term digital learning to get displaced workers retrained quickly. This effort will help shore up the country for future disruptions whether they are health, environmental, trade, or technology related. This will also require a national effort to address the disproportionately low digital literacy skills among workers in industries like food service and retail that will be most impacted by job loss due to COVID-19. 

Create jobsThere is strong bi-partisan support for a major effort to re-build our nation’s infrastructure, which could create millions of jobs that will be needed even more coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. NSC is leading efforts to develop a workforce training and re-employment title within anticipated federal infrastructure proposals. We want to ensure that any infrastructure package includes comprehensive training and support services with a focus on those who have been disproportionately impacted by racial inequities in education and labor policy.  

Posted In: Trade Adjustment Assistance, Federal Funding, Higher Education Access

Budget Analysis: 2021 request has important skills proposals but big cuts to Labor and Safety Net programs

  ·   By Katie Spiker, Katie Brown, and Kermit Kaleba
Budget Analysis: 2021 request has important skills proposals but big cuts to Labor and Safety Net programs

National Skills Coalition's 2021 budget analysis finds important education proposals recognizing the role of skills in the workforce, but massive cuts to safety net programs that help workers complete training and find good jobs.

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget request highlights the administration’s stated goal of “[p]reparing for a changing labor market” as the first step in his plan for economic prosperity in the U.S. Increasing vocational training, closing the skills gap, and retooling the American workforce are all included as goals under this heading.

In several places in the budget request, the administration moves in this direction. Proposed increases to Career and Technical Education (CTE) respond to business and worker demand for more investment in skills. Continued commitment to expanding Pell grants to high-quality, short-term programs would help modernize higher education to work better for students, workers, and businesses. And investments in high-quality work-based learning, and increased opportunities for workers to earn in-demand skills while earning a paycheck, are important to address the mismatch between skills workers can access and those in-demand by businesses.

At the same time, the administration continues a narrative around the need for program elimination and proposes deep cuts to safety net programs that help workers support their family and often connect them to opportunities to build skills. Taken together, the significant decreases in funding undercut smaller increases in skills programming.  

In 2018, the Council of Economic Advisers recognized the U.S. would need to spend $80 million more on active labor market policies just to reach the median level investment of other industrialized countries. Despite important recognition of the role of skills and increases for CTE, taken together, this year’s budget request moves in the wrong direction compared to our international peers.

The budget request in context

In 2019, Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal that set nondefense discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2021 at $626.5 billion. This is $5 billion higher than spending limits in FY2020 and above the levels proposed in the administration’s request. Congress will almost certainly spend to levels agreed to in the budget deal, in part because 2020 is an election year and there is pressure on incumbents to deliver on their constituents’ priorities.

While the budget request is unlikely to be a roadmap for negotiations on the Hill given these lower levels and the election year politics, it does send an important message about the administration’s priorities. Several policy proposals could gain momentum in the coming year, including continued progress on short-term Pell and modernizing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers.

Below is an analysis of skills programming supported through the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services and Agriculture. For more overview of the budget request, see this video short, a statement from Kermit Kaleba, NSC’s managing director for Policy, on the budget and our initial overview blog with top level analysis of what works for workers – and what doesn’t – in the administration’s FY2021 budget request. 

National Skills Coalition will continue to share resources on the impact of the FY2021 budget request on workers, businesses and communities.

Department of Education

In his FY2021 budget request, the President proposes a 7.8 percent funding across-the-board cut to Education Department (ED) programs. These cuts are reflected in a decrease in funding or a consolidation of funding across several valuable programs, including Federal Work Study, Childcare Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS), and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)—all of which help provide support to low-income students.

Career and Technical Education– While the President’s budget does call for an overall cut to ED programs, it prioritizes CTE, which is vital for helping students of all ages access the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy. The budget provides nearly $900 million in additional funding directed to CTE, which is composed of a roughly $680 million increase for Perkins Basic State Grants, an $83 million increase for Perkins National Programs and $100 million in additional funds that could be generated for Perkins through changes to the H-1B visa program (discussed below).

The budget stresses that the significant plus up for Perkins National Programs would support an expansion of the Innovation and Modernization (I&M) grant program with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields including computer science. I&M grants were recently authorized under Perkins V and are awarded to educational institutions to help fund a broad range of strategies, including designing new courses, building capacity in computer science and coding, and creating work-based learning opportunities for students.

Adult Education- While National Skills Coalition and many other organizations were encouraged by the significant increase to CTE funding proposed by the administration, the same emphasis was not placed on adult education. The President’s FY 2021 budget included $657 million for Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants and $14 million for Adult Education National Leadership Activities. Both of these proposed levels did not change from the White House’s FY 2020 request but provided a minor plus-up in funding compared to the levels agreed to by Congress for this fiscal year.

In the U.S., low basic skills are more common than in other countries—and low-basic skills impact employment, earnings, and economic mobility. Considering this, access to education and literacy services for adults is of the utmost importance when it comes to ensuring that individuals have the skills they need to compete in today’s economy. NSC looks forward to continuing to work with both Congress and the Administration to advocate for strong funding and federal support for adult education.

Pell Grants– The President’s budget calls for the funding necessary to support a maximum Pell grant award of $6,345 which is on par with the maximum award amount settled on by Congress in their FY 2020 appropriations package. The proposal also calls for notable changes to Pell grant eligibility, including allowing students enrolled in “high-quality, short-term programs that provide students with a credential, certification or license in a high-demand field” to participate in the program.  This provision echoes the sentiment of the bipartisan JOBS Act—an NSC supported policy that has gained momentum in Congress and is supported by likely 2020 voters on both sides of the aisle as well as small and mid-sized business leaders.

Additionally, the budget request calls for the extension of Pell grants to incarcerated individuals—which is another proposal that has bipartisan support in Congress. NSC highlighted the importance of this proposal, or Second Chance Pell, in a recently released report entitled The Roadmap for Racial Equity, which calls on Congress to overturn the ban on Pell grants for incarcerated individuals.

Federal Work Study (FWS) – Despite interest from the Administration in modernizing the FWS program so that it better supports career-oriented training opportunities, the budget proposes to cut the program by more than 50 percent, down to $500 million. The justification for this change is that FWS will be focused more workforce development for low-income undergraduate students and less on subsidized employment for campus-based jobs. The proposal would also reform the FWS allocation formula to better ensure that limited funds are going to Pell recipients.

This recommendation is in line with a new experimental site announced by the ED in 2019, which would expand FWS to private sector jobs. The experimental site would give colleges and universities the flexibility to allow students to receive FWS funds in apprenticeships, internships, clinical rotations and other situations not currently included in the federal aid program.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have introduced proposals to overhaul the FWS program, making it more responsive to the education and training needs of today’s students and employers. However, these proposals have largely included a plus-up in FWS funding to help educational institutions partner with employers to make these changes.

Notable Cuts and Consolidations

  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) – The CCAMPIS program is designed to support low-income parents enrolled in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based childcare services. Despite the importance of non-tuition support services = to ensuring student success, the President’s budget cuts the already underfunded CCAMPIS program from $53 million to $15 million.

  • Federal TRIO Programs – As in past years, the budget proposed to consolidate TRIO programs—federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds—into a single state block program and slash overall funding levels by 13%. In addition to decreased funding for TRIO, the proposal also seeks to combine TRIO with the GEAR UP program and the College Access Migrant Program (CAMP), spreading funding thinly across all three programs. Congress has so far pushed back against the Administration’s efforts to consolidate these programs, choosing instead to fund each of them separately.

  • Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) – FSEOG is a grant program reserved for students with the greatest need for financial aid. These grants can help low-income students bridge the gap between what Pell grants will cover and the cost of postsecondary education or training. The President’s budget proposes to fully eliminate these grants, deeming them as duplicative to Pell grants.

  • Public Student Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) – The PSLF program helps teachers, government employees and other public servants by cancelling their student loan debt after they make consistent payments for 10 years. The Administration has proposed to eliminate the program for the past few years; a move that Congress has not adopted.

Department of Labor

WIOA Title I. The administration’s FY 2021 budget request would provide level funding for WIOA title I state grants for Adults, Dislocated workers and Youth programming with current FY2020 levels. In FY2020, Congress increased funding for these programs by $30 million, and it’s important that the administration’s budget request supported this increase. However, it is still notable that funding for WIOA state grants has declined by 40% in the past two decades and is far from enough to meet the needs of today’s workers or those who will be impacted by technological change over the next decade.

Apprenticeship. The budget request also included an increase of $25 million in funding for apprenticeship grants. Congress appropriated $175 million in funding for apprenticeship in the FY2020 omnibus – restricting the use of this funding to registered programs. The budget request would reverse that restriction – and language found in the administration’s budget request for FY2020 – and instead direct DOL to use this funding for “expanding opportunities relating to apprenticeship programs…” The language in the FY2021 request removes a reference to the National Apprenticeship Act and to WIOA, opening up the funds to be spent on the administration’s proposed Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAP). Final regulations on IRAPs are expected out late spring, and NSC submitted comments on IRAP encouraging the department to consider  changes from the draft regulations released last year better link programs to the workforce and education systems and align with state workforce priorities.  

Program cuts and consolidation. Unfortunately, this increase was coupled with a continued narrative about program elimination and deep cuts. The administration proposed eliminating the Workforce Data Quality grants, which support state development of longitudinal data systems and are critical to measuring impact and success of workforce programs. The request also would cut $110 million from the Dislocated Worker National Reserve, reversing the $50 million increase Congress included in December’s omnibus package to support training at community and technical colleges, partnering with business and the workforce system. The budget request also proposed to eliminate several WIOA national programs, including Native American programs and the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers program, and had cuts to Youth Build and Ex-Offender activities.

The budget also included significant – more than 40% - cut to Job Corps funding. At his hearing on the FY2020 DOL budget request, former Labor Secretary Acosta proposed a new demonstration project at Job Corps sites and the program has been the center of attention from across party lines in Congress, but members remain committed to investment in the latest appropriations bill, increasing funding levels up to $1.74 billion.  

In the narrative around these proposed cuts and program elimination – and in the description of the proposed elimination of the Senior Community Service Employment Program under the Older Americans Act – the administration tasked the workforce system with serving these target populations.

Alignment between national programs and the work happening at the local level is vital for improved efficiency and outcomes for businesses and workers. Tasking local workforce areas – and states – with serving workers with the greatest needs, with continually decreased funding levels, is not efficient, it’s setting up workers, businesses and communities up for failure.

H-1B funds. The budget request included several legislative proposals reflective of the administration’s priorities. First, the administration repeated their proposal – also included in the FY2020 request – to double the fees associated with H-1B visas, awarding the funds to community and technical colleges to support training for in-demand industries.

TAA. Finally, the Administration proposed an update to Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers, including a call to reauthorize the program through 2031. Like what has been included in FY2019 and FY2020 budgets, the administration proposes shifting a focus in TAA for workers to encourage more access to work-based learning for participants. The FY2021 budget request also reflected an intention to foster closer alignment between services provided under TAA and the public workforce system, consistent with a Congressional report earlier this year and draft regulations released by the Department of Labor late 2019. Spending under TAA for workers is authorized – based on the number of claims against the program – up to $450 million, but the administration estimates lower FY2021 costs, if their legislative proposal is adopted, and only estimates spending just over $400 million on the program in FY2021.

Safety Net Programs

The President’s budget calls for drastic cuts and policy changes to a range of public assistance programs across different agencies, consistent with past budget proposals and ongoing regulatory efforts by the administration to reduce access to needed benefits.

SNAP. The budget calls for changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would tighten work requirements for individuals between the ages of 18-65, which the Department of Agriculture estimates will result in cuts of $36.6 billion over ten years. These proposals would come on top of regulatory actions by the administration to reduce access to SNAP, including a recently finalized rule that restricts the ability of states to waive work requirements for certain SNAP participants in areas of high unemployment. That rule is expected to take effect as of April 1, and it is anticipated that as many as 700,000 individuals will lose access to SNAP benefits due to the new requirements. These proposals come despite the fact that Congress recently reauthorized SNAP as part of the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, and specifically rejected expanded work requirements as part of that compromise legislation. 

Medicaid. The Administration proposes expanding work requirements to Medicaid recipients, building on current efforts to give states the authority to impose such requirements through waivers. At least ten states have gotten approval from the administration to experiment with work requirements, with poor results: initial efforts in Arkansas resulted in approximately 18,000 individuals losing access to health coverage with no demonstrated improvement in employment outcomes. The proposed changes in the budget would lead to estimated cuts of approximately $150 billion over ten years, as more individuals would lose access to health benefits.

TANF. The Administration also proposes a ten percent cut to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state grant program – reducing budget authority from the current $16.7 billion to $15.2 billion, and would eliminate the TANF contingency fund, which is designed to help states provide assistance to qualifying participants in times of economic hardship. These cuts would come despite the fact that funding levels for the TANF block grant have not increased since 1996, resulting in a nearly 40 percent erosion in purchasing power for TANF over the past 20 years due to inflation.

While it is highly unlikely that Congress will adopt the administration’s legislative proposals with respect to these programs, the budget signals the administration’s continued insistence on work requirements as a strategy for moving low-income workers out of poverty, despite strong evidence that indicates such requirements are ineffective and mostly serve to reduce access to critical nutrition, health, and other supports for the least fortunate. If enacted, these proposals would significantly undercut state and local efforts to better connect individuals on SNAP, TANF, and other programs to high-quality education and training, and would make it difficult for millions of low-income workers to find and keep family-supporting jobs. National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to expand work requirements, and we look forward to working with Congress to reject these harmful proposals and instead focus on strategies that connect individuals to the skills and credentials they need to succeed in today’s economy.


In the FY2021 budget request, the administration also includes a supplemental description of a $1 trillion infrastructure investment, dividing the funds between a surface transportation bill, funding for new infrastructure, for improving freight safety, bridge rebuilding, broadband access to rural areas and for repairing transit. The supplemental – despite the administration’s inclusion in the past – is silent on funding being allocated to support the workers who would complete the projects.

Congressional leadership and the White House have engaged in several negotiations over infrastructure, and the issue remains a bipartisan priority. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, a $1 trillion investment could create 11 million new jobs – new workers on top of the already steep skills mismatch that exists in infrastructure industries like construction, manufacturing and utilities.

Coupled with drastic cuts to labor programs, and comparatively small increases in education programs, any infrastructure conversation needs to include funding and support for helping workers in the communities with infrastructure projects develop skills necessary to succeed in those jobs.

  FY 2021 - Authorized Levels  Current Levels - FY 2020 FY2021 President's Budget Request FY2021 Budget Request to FY2020 Levels
Department of Labor        
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 - State Forumla Grants   $2,819,832,000    
WIOA Adult NA $854,649,000 $854,649,000 -
WIOA Dislocated Worker NA* $1,052,053,000 $1,052,053,000 -
WIOA Youth NA $913,130,000 $913,130,000 -
Wagner-Peyser / Employment Service Grants NA


$668,052,000 -
Workforce Data Quality Inititative Grants NA $6,000,000 - -$6,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants NA $175,000,000 $200,000,000 $25,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $270,859,000 $160,859,000 -$110,000,000
Native American Programs NA $55,000,000 - -$55,000,000
Ex-offender Activities NA $98,079,000 $93,079,000 -$5,000,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers NA $91,896,000 - -$91,896,000
Youth Build NA $94,534,000 $84,534,000 -$10,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Programs NA $405,000,000 - -$405,000,000
JobCorps NA $1,743,655,000 $1,015,897,000 -$727,758,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000 -
Department of Education         
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,282,598,000 $1,962,598,000 $680,000,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants NA $656,955,000 $656,955,000 -
Posted In: Federal Funding
Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations provide moderate – but important - boost to workforce and education programs

On December 20th, the President signed two omnibus Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending bills that included moderate increases in funding for most workforce and education programs. The package also includes spending priorities that direct the Department of Labor (DOL) to use funding to support community college capacity to deliver workforce programming and to better connect the public workforce system, educators, and employers in local industry partnerships.

Earlier this year, Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal that increased nondefense discretionary funding from 2019 levels by $24.5 billion for FY2020 and then another $5 billion increase in non-defense for 2021.

The final spending levels for DOL and Department of Education were lower than those proposed by the House L-HHS bill, passed on a party line vote prior to the two-year budget deal, and slightly higher than the draft Senate L-HHS bill released earlier this fall.

National Skills Coalition and partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce released a new brief earlier this year on the imperative for investing in the U.S. workforce and advocated through out the year for vital increases in workforce training and education programs. Final levels are consistent with calls for greater investment, but still fall far short of what the U.S. needs to ensure workers can access and succeed in programs that prepare them for good jobs that meet business’ needs in a global 21st century economy.

NSC applauds Congress for passing a final spending deal that funds the government through September 30, 2020 and that includes increases in funding for vital workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

Programs under the Department of Labor received a two percent increase for FY2020. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I State grant funding increased by $30 million and Title III Wagner Peyser grant funding increased by $5 million. The agreement increases JobCorps funding by $25 million and funding for apprenticeship grants up to $175 million, $15 million above FY2019 levels.

In accompanying text, language directs DOL to restrict this apprenticeship funding to registered apprenticeship programs and includes a mention that industry or sector partnerships are an important strategy to expand apprenticeship, consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act.

The agreement includes a $50 million increase for Dislocated Worker National Reserve (DWNR). Report language directs the DOL to spend $10 million of this increase on a grant program for youth, supporting partnerships between youth serving organizations and workforce development boards. It also includes new $40 million for “Strengthening Community College Training Grants,” also included in the House L-HHS bill, which would provide grants of $1 million to $5 million to community colleges or partnerships between community colleges and other training providers to improve capacity to deliver workforce programming. This proposal is consistent with the Gateway to Careers Act, introduced earlier this year by Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO).

The bill level funds the Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants and includes slight increases for most of the WIOA National programs.

While any significant changes are unlikely in the next year, WIOA is up for reauthorization in 2020 and report language to the funding package offers insight in to policy maker priorities in those conversations. The report directs DOL to evaluate resilience training and trauma-informed practices for WIOA youth programming and submit a report by June. DOL is also instructed to submit a report on how states are using 10 percent reserved funds under DWNR funding as part of the department’s FY2021 budget justification.

Department of Education

Funding for programs under the Department of Education (Ed) increased 2.5 percent over FY2019 levels in the final package. This includes a $20 million increase for Career and Technical Education state grants and $15 million for Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants. The final agreement also includes an increase of the maximum Pell award to $6,345, $150 over 2019-2020 levels.

Throughout the final agreement and explanatory text, there are several recognitions of the role postsecondary education has to prepare students for and link programs to workforce needs. The bill includes new funding for $10 million for career pathway grants that connect secondary students with postsecondary education linked to job opportunities. Explanatory text also directs the Department of Education to allocate flexible funding to support higher funding levels and additional grants made to pay for support services for students and instructs Ed to request application for TRIO grants by end of 2019. While not attached to specific funding, explanatory text also includes a new provision that describes the importance of programs offered at Institutions of Higher Education that lead to industry recognized credentials in in-demand fields and are aligned with workforce needs.

  FY 2020 - Authorized Levels  Current Levels - FY 2019 FY2020 Funding Levels FY2020 funding levels compared to Current Levels
Department of Labor        
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 - State Forumla Grants   $2,789,832,000 $2,819,832,000 $30,000,000
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000 $854,649,000 $9,093,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,052,053,00 $11,193,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $913,130,000 $9,714,000
Wagner-Peyser / Employment Service Grants NA $663,052,000 $668,000,000 $5,000,000
Workforce Data Quality Inititative Grants NA $6,000,000 $6,000,000  
Apprenticeship Grants NA $160,000,000 $175,000,000 $15,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $220,859,000 $270,859,00 $50,000,000
Native American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $500,000
Ex-offender Activities NA $93,079,000 $98,079,000 $5,000,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $91,896,000 $3,000,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $94,534,000 $5,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Programs NA $400,000,000 $405,000,000 $5,000,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,743,655,000 $25,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000  
Department of Education         
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,262,598,000 $1,282,598,000 $20,000,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $656,955,000 $15,000,000

*Combined State Grants and National Reserve Funding

Posted In: Federal Funding

A galvanizing moment: Census 2020 provides new opportunity to invest in skills

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
A galvanizing moment: Census 2020 provides new opportunity to invest in skills

The 2020 Census is around the corner. The first census enumerators will begin gathering data in rural Alaska just four weeks from now in January 2020, while Americans nationwide will receive Census mailings beginning in March. The stakes are high: In FY 2017, the US government relied on Census-derived data to distribute more than $1.5 trillion in funding to states, localities, organizations, and individuals.

One area isn’t getting as much press, but is equally important: The role of the Census in prodding policymakers to take action on skills issues.

In particular, the upcoming Census provides skills advocates with a galvanizing moment to help policymakers grasp the importance of investing in digital literacy and other foundational skills. In the near term, policymakers can take action on skills as part of broader Census engagement efforts; in the longer term, investments in skills should be a key part of any Future of Work policy agenda.

The Census and skills: Connecting the dots for state and local policymakers

While many states and localities are busy setting up Complete Count Committees and otherwise hustling to fund outreach and ensure that hard-to-count communities are included in the Census, relatively less attention has been paid to the skills needed for the Census. These fall into two categories:

  • Skills needed by individuals who are responding to the Census
  • Skills needed by individuals who are seeking jobs with the Census Bureau as enumerators or other frontline positions

Skills advocates can educate local and state policymakers about both kinds of upskilling needs among their constituents. For the general public, traditional literacy and digital literacy skills are important to ensure that families can complete Census forms accurately and be included in the count. For jobseekers, traditional literacy and digital literacy skills are necessary to be eligible for the hundreds of thousands of enumerator and other Census jobs available through the spring and summer of 2020.

Why does the Census require digital literacy skills?

For the first time, the US is pursuing an internet-first Census. That means that typical households will receive three mailings – an invitation to respond, a reminder letter, and a postcard reminder -- inviting them to self-respond via the official Census website. Only if households fail to respond to the first three mailings will they receive a paper form in the fourth mailing from the Census Bureau.

(While online responses were an option back in the 2010 Census, they were not the default. This time around, online response is framed as a default for almost all households. Individuals can also call in by phone to respond, though this option is often avoided by respondents because it can be time-consuming.)

Online responses can be submitted via laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone. 

What can skills advocates ask policymakers to do?

There are some steps that advocates can take immediately. These are outlined below. In 2020, National Skills Coalition will be releasing a new data analysis of digital literacy skill gaps and an expanded set of policy recommendations as part of our overall Future of Work agenda.

At the state and local level:

  • Introduce state-level legislation or an administrative policy mirroring the federal Digital Equity Act (see below). Investing in digital skill-building helps ensure that all adults have the ability to participate in important civic requirements such as the Census, while also equipping them for a labor market that increasingly demands digital skills even for entry-level positions – such as Census enumerator jobs.
  • Provide resources and technical assistance for adult education programs that serve Census respondents and jobseekers. Existing state investments in adult education vary widely. All states should consider increasing investments in programs serving adult learners, including professional development to help adult educators themselves build the digital fluency needed to equip learners with necessary skills. In terms of technical assistance, California has led the way in issuing an array of programmatic materials including curricula and other Census materials for adult education programs. Advocates can also take advantage of Census resources from the National Coalition for Literacy and the American Library Association to educate policymakers and service providers alike.

At the federal level:

  • Co-sponsor and support the Digital Equity Act, recently introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and colleagues. This legislation, now under consideration in Congress, would create two new federal grant programs to support digital literacy. States would be required to develop digital inclusion plans that outline how partners such as nonprofit organizations, workforce and adult education providers, and libraries would help to ensure that all state residents have equitable access to digital skill-building opportunities. 
    • The legislation would include:
      • A $125 million formula grant program, distributed to all states
      • A $125 million discretionary grant program, distributed only to states that win a competitive proposal process

  • Increase investment in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Currently, Title II funds programs serving approximately 1.5 million adult learners each year -- including classes in adult basic education, adult secondary education (also known as high school equivalency), and English language acquisition. Digital literacy is mentioned as an authorized activity under WIOA, although there is no dedicated funding for such classes. Funding WIOA at its full authorized level is a vital component of helping individuals build digital literacy skills.


Posted In: Higher Education Access, Federal Funding, Work-Based Learning
Draft Senate bill falls short for workers, businesses, and communities as House passes short-term solution

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released draft text of their Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies bill. The bill would fund most skills programs at current levels, after a Senate allocation process last week that included a mere 1% increase in funding for the L-HHS subcommittee bill and passed on party lines. This meager increase comes despite a budget deal earlier this year that increased nondefense spending levels by almost $25 billion for FY2020 over FY2019. It also led to the subcommittee rescinding funding from the Pell Grant Reserve Fund to support level funding, in order to build in increased funding for non-Labor or Education priorities under their jurisdiction. The Senate bill’s level funding stands in stark contrast to the increases many skills programs saw under the FY2020 House Labor-HHS bill, which included important and necessary investments in critical workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would level fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth state grants. Since 2001, WIOA state grants have declined by nearly 40% and despite overwhelming bipartisan support for a 2014 reauthorization, Congress has never funded WIOA state grants at authorized levels.

In their committee report,  the committee recognizes that the historically low unemployment rate does not reflect the realities in communities across the country, recognizing the “critical functions” of WIOA state grant funding. As Congress looks to reauthorizing WIOA, now is the time to make a commitment to support workers, businesses and communities and address historic, comparative and detrimental disinvestment.

WIOA national programs – including YouthBuild, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs, Ex-Offender Activities and Native American Programs – and Wagner-Peyser state grants are also funded at current levels under the Senate bill.

The committee report and bill did include a few important areas of bipartisan progress. There is a $10 million increase above FY2019 levels for apprenticeship in the bill and the committee recognizes that supporting industry or sector partnerships is a key strategy for expanding apprenticeship in in-demand industries, consistent with the PARTNERS Act. The bill also included a recommendation to the Department of Labor to support demonstration projects on workforce development strategies that help workers most at risk of job dislocation due to automation and AI, citing to recommendations in two recent GAO reports. Finally, the bill includes a $10 million increase to the Dislocated Worker National Reserve, which the committee report directs the Department of Labor to direct to demonstration grants to fund “Career Pathways for Youth” grants, with a focus on job training for opportunity youth and connections between workforce boards and youth-serving organizations.

At the same time, the bill would, consistent with and citing to the President’s FY2020 Presidential Budget Request, eliminate funding for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative. This elimination is contrary to the administration’s stated focus on evidence-based investment and would eliminate funding on which states rely to capture and analyze important workforce data.

Department of Education

The Senate bill would fund both Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) state grants and Adult Education and Family Literacy State grants at FY2019 levels. Both of these programs received slight increases in FY2019, but investments have declined by nearly 30 percent and almost 15 percent, since 2001, respectively. The House L-HHS bill would have provided both programs with slight increases.

The bill would increase the maximum Pell grant to $6,330 for the 2020-21 school year. The bill, however, would rescind $1.3 billion in unobligated balances of the Pell Grant reserve to pay for increases across the L-HHS bill, outside of higher education funding. This rescission amounts to a cut to the funding available to low income students to access training and education programs and is harmful to workers and businesses.

The proposal also includes a new $10 million in funding for grants to expand CTE career pathway programs and connections between secondary and postsecondary CTE programs. This new funding is consistent with the innovation grants authorized in the 2018 Perkins CTE reauthorization.

What’s Next

The House, also last week, passed a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government at current year levels through November 21. The Senate has until September 30th, the conclusion of FY 2019, to pass the CR – or reach an unlikely agreement on their appropriations bills - to avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate  is likely to move forward with the House-passed CR and continue negotiations on the L-HHS, among others, FY2020 appropriations bill. The House L-HHS bill (and the L-HHS subcommittee allocation) was significantly more generous in funding levels for skills programs than the draft released by the Senate appropriations committee. It’s possible, especially given this disparity and the increasingly partisan process in the Senate this year, Congress will be unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending levels and will instead pass a single CR for the year, or a series of shorter-term CRs.

If Congress is able to reach a final agreement, and the President signs off on this agreement, the final funding levels are likely to be closer to the Senate levels, but will probably reflect the areas of priority mirrored in the Senate version – apprenticeship and CTE may see slight increases with other programs maintained at least at current year levels.

NSC, along with our national organization partners as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, urged Senate appropriators to increase investments in critical programs in a letter earlier this year.  These increases are overwhelmingly popular with likely 2020 voters – 93% of whom support investments in skills – and small and mid-size business owners – 79% of whom support new, public investment in skills.

Investments in skills are more important than ever. Businesses continue to struggle to find workers and workers aren’t able to access training necessary to succeed in good jobs. As we face the impending impact of technology, automation and AI on the workforce, reports suggest nearly 100 million workers will have their jobs substantially changed – or eliminated – in the coming years. Investments in these programs have been cut drastically over the past two decades and we invest less in our workforce than almost every other industrialized country.

The workforce and technical education systems in our country are posed to address the challenges businesses and workers face today and in the future of work, but Congress must invest today in skills training for the jobs of the 21st century.



FY 2020 – Authorized Levels

Current Levels - FY 2019

FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee

FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS Report

FY2020 Senate Labor-HHS compared to Current Levels

Department of Labor


Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants






WIOA Adult






WIOA Dislocated Worker






WIOA Youth






Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants








Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants






Apprenticeship Grants






DW National Reserve






Native American Programs






Ex-Offender Activities






Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers






Youth Build






Senior Community Service Employment Program












Trade Adjustment Assistance






Department of Education


Career and Technical Education State Grants






Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants







Posted In: Federal Funding
Twelve community and technical college systems band together to call on Congress to adopt a job-driven Community College Compact for today’s students

Today, education leaders from twelve community and technical college systems across the country—including those in Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington—sent letters to federal policymakers, urging them to make higher education policy more responsive to the needs of today’s students.

The letters, which were sent to Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leadership, call for the adoption of a job-driven Community College Compact; a set of postsecondary policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition (NSC) and vetted by a range of stakeholders, including academic institutions, employers, community-based organizations and workforce development boards. If adopted by Congress, these policies would increase access to high-quality education and training programs, crucial support services and transparent information regarding postsecondary programs for students of all ages and backgrounds. Likely 2020 voters and business leaders also strongly support the Compact policies, as demonstrated by recent polling conducted by ALG Research on behalf of NSC.

Community and technical college leaders are voicing their shared support for the Community College Compact in light of the impending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA, which is the most comprehensive federal law governing postsecondary institutions and programs, has been eligible for reauthorization by Congress since 2008. Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander, and Ranking Member, Patty Murray, as well as House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, Bobby Scott, and Ranking Member, Virginia Foxx, have expressed interest in reauthorizing this sweeping legislation before the end of this Congress. Additionally, the White House has named the modernization of the Higher Education Act as one of its top priorities.

The letters urge federal policymakers to consider the following policy changes:

Eliminate the bias against working learners in need of federal financial aid

In today’s economy, approximately 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education or training, and more than 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they call for more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. As a result, community and technical colleges are working to increase access to high quality, short-term programs that lead to in-demand credentials. However, most federal financial aid available today is reserved for students who are enrolled in programs of study that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks—an outdated policy that fails to account for the training needs of individuals in our 21st century economy.

Therefore, community and technical college leaders are urging lawmakers to consider legislation—such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 839; H.R. 3497 ) led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Richmond (D-LA-02), Levin (D-MI-09), Horsford (D-NV-04), Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-03) and Katko (R-NY-24)—that would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality education and training programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks.

Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

Since higher education is becoming more closely linked with finding success in the labor market, data about the outcomes of postsecondary programs should be available to students, parents, employers and policymakers. However, as community and technical college leaders note in their letters, existing legal restrictions on the collection of student-level data continue to hinder the accessibility of this important information.

To help provide consumers with better data and relieve institutions of duplicative reporting requirements, community and technical college administrators called for action on the College Transparency Act (S.800; H.R. 1766). Introduced by Senators Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI-10), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Harder (D-CA-10), this bipartisan bill aims to establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student level data network administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to which colleges would be able to safely and easily report their data. The data would then be available as a decision-making tool for current and prospective students—making it easier for individuals to improve their lives through education and training.

Ensure the success of today’s college students by strengthening support services

Due to the diversity of the student populations they serve, community and technical college leaders recognize the growing importance of support services such as career counseling, childcare and transportation assistance. While states and higher education administrators across the country are working hard to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to succeed in the postsecondary education system, their efforts receive little support at the federal level.

To address this issue, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117)—legislation introduced by Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO). This bipartisan bill would make federal funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

Provide targeted funding for valuable partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Community and technical college leaders work with industry stakeholders every day to provide high-quality training and academic instruction to future workers through sector partnerships. However, Congress has not invested in these partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014. The purpose of the TAAACT grant program, which allocated $2 billion in funding to states from FY 2011-2014, was to increase the capacity of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce through job training for adults and other nontraditional students.

Due to the proven impact of community college-business partnerships, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of legislation that would expand and support these collaboratives, an example of which is the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612; H.R. 2920). Introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Feinstein (D-CA), Durbin (D-IL), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Kelly (D-IL-02), this legislation aims to provide academic institutions and businesses with competitive grant funding so that they can continue to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

Read the letter to the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee, as well as letters of support from Arkansas and Washington.

Posted In: Transportation, Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Sector Partnerships, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington

Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

  ·   By Katie Brown
Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

Today, Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, in the House. This bipartisan legislation is identical to S.839, the Senate version of the JOBS Act, introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) earlier this year. House introduction of this bill underlines the mounting support for extending federal financial aid to short-term education and training programs of high-quality—a policy change that 86% of voters are in favor of. National Skills Coalition applauds the efforts of House and Senate sponsors of this bill and looks forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure its inclusion in a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization bill.

More on the JOBS Act, from our blog post recognizing the Senate introduction back in March:

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
Multiple DOL announcements to expand Industry Recognized Apprenticeships with proposed regulations and grant announcements

Earlier this week, the administration took several next steps to expand their industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), providing important guidance to states and practitioners implementing the new process.  

On June 24th and 25th, the Department of Labor (DOL) 

These announcements offer insight inside administration actions– the regulations offer new details into SREs and IRAP programs, but still need additional work to be operationalized, such as ensuring a role for small businesses in the process, requiring SREs collect and report on vital performance measures, and distinguishing the activities programs will be tasked with as compared to that of the SRE/oversight entity.  

At the same time, many of the systems awarded funds this week to implement the new program, represent forward thinking, effective community and technical colleges systems that lead their peers in establishing alignment between higher education and workforce programs. 

The new funding availability offers safeguards to ensure funding continues to go to good programs – applicants are required to show an “apprenticeship partnership” comprised of education and businesses and other workforce and education stakeholders in a local area. Applications also must include a plan for using funds to provide support services to program participants to ensure their success – often the biggest financial lift for entities attempting to expand programs to workers with the most need for these supports.  

Background on Industry Recognized Apprenticeship 

Since a 2017 Executive Order intended to create this new IRAP system, DOL convened a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, comprised of Governors, leaders from businesses and business associations, representatives of education providers and education associations, Labor leaders, and other interested stakeholders. The Task Force’s work culminated in a report to the President in May of 2018, that set forward several recommendations to expand apprenticeship, including aligning apprenticeship with educational opportunities, marketing opportunities to workers and providing business engagement assistance particularly in industries in which apprenticeship is not well utilized, and repeated a call for disinvestment in other workforce training strategies.  

Following the report from the task force, DOL released the first iteration of a Training and Employment Notice (TEN) that described the role of what the agency now calls Standards Recognition Entities (SREs), third party entities like business associations who will serve in an oversight role and recognize industry-recognized apprenticeship programs as meeting standards necessary to address business demand for skilled workers. The TEN released this week would update this 2018 TEN.  

In November of 2018, DOL solicited comments on the information it would collect from SREs, releasing a draft of the form an SRE would need to submit to DOL in order to be recognized for the SRE designation. NSC submitted a set of comments individually and in partnership with other national organizations, recommending DOL collect information that would empower small and mid-size companies to fully participate in the IRAP system, urging DOL to require SREs to release and disaggregate outcomes data and recognizing the importance of local, industry-led partnerships and career pathways to success of both business and workers in implementing a new work-based learning system.  

Over the past six months, Secretary Acosta has spoken optimistically about progress towards rolling out the new system, but this week’s series of announcements were the first tangible step of 2019.  

IRAP Proposed Regulations 

Published on June 25th in the Federal Register, DOL is soliciting comments due August 23rd on their proposed amendments to 29 CFR 29, the portion of the Code of Federal Regulations that currently governs registered apprenticeship programs. The proposed regs would largely leave existing regs untouched, except for adding provisions around IRAP.   

The proposed regulations explicitly recognize that industry recognized programs under would not automatically qualify for the priority status registered programs enjoy in other workforce and education programs, such as automatic eligibility for a state Eligible Training Provider List under WIOA or application of Davis-Bacon provisions as applied to programs registered under the National Apprenticeship Act. 

Standards Recognition Entities (SRE) 

The proposed regs detail who can become an SRE, including business associations, local agencies, educational institutions, community-based organizations, unions, labor management partnerships or a consortium of those entities. To qualify, entities must show expertise in an industry necessary to evaluate training, structure and curricula of programs and capacity to assess program quality, defined as ensuring programs meet the definition of industry recognized programs offered below. Programs would be recognized for five years.   

In the proposed regs, DOL recognizes that there may be hundreds of SREs across occupations, industries and regions and solicits comments on the best way to encourage diverse set of entities to seek recognition as SREs.  

Consistent with task force recommendations, and those from labor unions in the construction industry, DOL proposes limiting SREs from recognizing military or construction apprenticeships. DOL bases this restriction on the concentration of apprentices within these areas – 48% of registered programs are in the construction industry and 32% are military apprenticeships. DOL proposes sunsetting this restriction, such as in five years, as industry recognized programs grow and this representation across the two apprenticeship systems evens out across industries.  

Once recognized by DOL, these entities are tasked with reporting on completion of program participants and recognizing programs in a timely manner. SREs would be required to publicly release data on each program it recognizes:  

  1. Contact information for entity running the program 

  1. Number of apprentices enrolled 

  1. Completion rate  

  1. Median length of a program 

  1. Post-apprenticeship employment rate.  

The regulations solicit comment on the importance of DOL requiring SREs to collect, and make publicly available, additional data about recognized programs. Earlier guidance from DOL suggested intended alignment between data collection SREs would be tasked with and WIOA performance measures, but the proposed data collection in the draft regs would not rise to the standards of WIOA or those recommended in the past by NSC and our partners.  

DOL solicits comments on whether additional data, such as that on participants’ post-program earnings, should be released to enable DOL to evaluate program success and the most efficient approach by which SREs can collect this data and share with DOL.  

The regulations largely focus on the role of SREs, leaving the oversight of program structure and delivery to an SRE to evaluate. In some ways this furthers DOL’s goal of removing the federal government from oversight of a program, but it also creates a certain level of confusion over the role an SRE would play when compared with the entity running an industry-recognized program. For example, an SRE would be tasked with doing outreach to participants to ensure EEO opportunities for all workers in programs the SRE recognizes. In practice, however, it’s difficult to see the incentive for or ability of an oversight or accrediting entity in recruitment on behalf of a business or education provider, who would presumably have the connections in a community to reach a broader set of participants.  

DOL does recognize entities that help businesses or local areas implement or run programs may serve as SREs and requires SREs to submit information that this technical assistance role will not influence their role as an SRE, and solicits comments on how to best implement this firewall.  

Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs 

They proposed rule does, however, define the types of programs an SRE can recognize. To be eligible for recognition, a program must include:  

  1. Training for a job that “require[s] specialized knowledge and experience.DOL is soliciting comments on whether it should set a competency baseline for programs that meet this standard, and if the phrase, “progressively advancing” is an adequate definition of the types of skills someone would develop under industry recognized programs.  

  1. Structured work experience coupled with classroom or training related instruction necessary to earn industry-recognized credentials. DOL solicits comments on the effectiveness of SREs’ establishment of competency-based standards will provide enough guidance to industry-recognized programs to ensure programs have value.  

  1. An employment relationship during which an apprentice is paid at least minimum wage 

  1. Apprentice access to earning credit for training, where possible. And 

  1. structured mentorship opportunities.  

The proposed regs explicitly requires SREs to ensure programs adhere to all safety and equal employment laws, but require no specific action towards these goals, unlike higher standards required of registered programs under 29 CFR 29.  

The regulations also empower industry-recognized programs to access a streamlined process for applying as a registered program, however DOL recognizes the intention of the new program is to expand work-based learning opportunities to new programs and not to create a duplicative system.  

Funding Availability 

As discussed above, applications for the newly announced funding, Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap grant program, are due September 24th 

DOL anticipates funding up to 30 partnerships up to $6 million. Applicants will be required to show participation of an “apprenticeship partnership,” with representatives from businesses, education providers and option partners such as joint labor-management partnerships, community organizations, workforce boards, community organizations and other education providers. This funding opportunity is consistent with the grants awarded this week under the Sector Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship grants, and includes an added recognition of the role a robust partnership can play in ensuring effective program expansion and development, consistent with NSC recommendations. Applicants are also required to include a description of support services – such as childcare and transportation – for which funds will be used and “convincingly demonstrate how these services will support apprentices in successfully remaining in and completing” programs, also consistent with NSC recommendations.  

Congressional Progress 

Just last week, the House passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 funding bill that would limit the $200 million for apprenticeship to registered programs, voting down an amendment offered by Rep. French Hill (R-AK) to allow DOL to spend this funding to expand IRAPs.  

The Senate has not yet released a draft of their bill, but funding levels are unlikely to match those in the House version. Democrats will likely push for language that restricts funding to registered programs, consistent with that in previous appropriations bills.  

After initial momentum around a bipartisan apprenticeship bill last Congress, members have both been focused on other education and workforce priorities – like reauthorizing the Higher Education Act – and have been unable to reach further bipartisan consensus around a comprehensive package. Several smaller bills, including NSC priorities of supporting local, industry-driven sector partnerships and investing in work-based learning and support services as a component of an infrastructure package, have been introduced this Congress, though, and are markers for next steps in Congressional activity.  

NSC will submit comments on the regulations and will share a template of these comments for partners to personalize to your work in the coming weeks.  

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education
House subcommittee takes important first step toward meeting commitment to U.S. businesses and workers

 Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Subcommittee released – and advanced to the full committee – their draft Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) spending bill, which would increase funding for workforce and education programs to or slightly above authorized funding levels.

This increase would represent the first time appropriators met their commitment to workers and businesses under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and fully funded a program that helps workers get the skills businesses need for 21st century jobs. This important investment would support vital workforce and education programs that have sustained consistent underinvestment for decades.

During the mark-up, Chairwoman of the full Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey (D-NY), focused on the importance of investing in workforce development and education that matches workers with skills necessary to fill open jobs and both Republicans and Democrats touched on the importance of these programs.

These increases are in large part consistent with the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce’s letter to House appropriators on FY2020 funding levels, on which National Skills Coalition joined more than 30 other national organizations to urge appropriators to adequately invest in workforce and education programming.

These increases are also overwhelmingly popular with likely 2020 voters – 93% of whom support investments in skills – and small and mid-size business owners – 79% of whom support new, public investment in skills.

Tell you members of Congress today – it’s time to meet the commitment made to businesses and workers and adequately fund workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would increase funding for DOL by $1.2 billion, $709 million of which would fund programs under the Employment and Training Administration. It would fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Formula State Grants for Youth and Adults at slightly higher than authorized levels, and would increase funding across Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth funding of more than $400 million. This increase would be the first time Congress funds state grants at authorized levels since WIOA passed with overwhelming support in 2014. Since 2001, WIOA Title I state formula grants have been cut by nearly 40%, so this increased to authorized levels is an important recognition of the important role the workforce system plays in meeting business demand and worker need.

The bill would add $2million to funding, up to $8 million, for Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants and $90 million to apprenticeship funding, increasing it to $250 million for FY2020. The bill included increased funding for national programs under WIOA, including a $10 million increase for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs and an increase of nearly $30 million, to $127 million, for YouthBuild.

The draft also included several of Democrats’ policy priorities. It would create a new $150 million national grant program, using Dislocated Worker National Grant funds, to support workforce development provided at community and technical colleges and would allocate $25 million of funding from the Reentry Program to support intermediaries helping returning citizens develop in-demand skills. From the $250 million for apprenticeship, the bill would allocate 20 percent of funds to local and national organizations to help expand programming and 50 percent of funding to states, consistent with the way DOL has spent this appropriation in previous years.

Department of Education

The Subcommittee draft would increase funding for the Department of Education by $4.4 billion, up to $75 billion. It includes a $37.4 million increase to Perkins Career and Technical Education state grants, funding them at $1.3 billion. Congress passed – with overwhelming support – a new CTE bill last year, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and this proposed increased comes after bipartisan support for increased investments in CTE in the FY2019 appropriations package. CTE programs have been cut by nearly 30 percent since 2001, and this proposed increase would help reverse the trend of disinvestment.

The bill would also increase Adult Education and Family Literacy Act State Grants by $22.6 million to $664,555,000. Adult Education funding has been cut by nearly 20 percent since 2001, and these increases would be vital to scaling services to more than 36 million Americans with low basic skills, including 24 million who are currently in the workforce.

The max Pell award would be increased by $150 dollars, bringing the total for the 2020-2021 school year to $5,285.

What’s Next

The House is moving forward with mark ups for appropriations bills, using top line numbers set by House Democrats earlier this spring in absence of a bicameral budget resolution, and the full appropriations committee is expected to hear the L-HHS bill, and announce each subcommittee’s official 302(b) allocation, as early as next week.

Senate Appropriators have suggested the Senate will not move forward on individual appropriations bills until the Senate and House are able to agree to a budget deal that will raise budget caps – and avoid sequestration – imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA).

Leadership is continuing to work towards a two-year budget agreement to cover FY2020 and 2021, the final two years to which BCA will apply. This agreement could be – as it has been in years past – coupled with an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, for which the Department of Treasure announced earlier this week it will exhaust extraordinary measures to avoid reaching in late Summer. Linking budget and debt ceiling negotiations may make it easier for members of both parties to support a slight increase in funding above FY2019 levels, but final funding is unlikely to be as high as the numbers proposed in the House bill this week.

Tell your policy makers today – it’s time to meet your commitment to workers and businesses. Invest in workforce and education today!

Also this week, Secretary Acosta testified in front of the House Education & Labor (Ed & Labor) Committee on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) priorities for FY2020. In his testimony, the Secretary recognized multiple times that the U.S. has underinvested in middle-skill jobs – and pathways that don’t include a four-year degree.

NSC and our partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce will continue to advocate for critical investments in workforce and education and Congress continues the FY2020 appropriations process.


  FY 2020 – Authorized Levels Current Levels - FY 2019 FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Change FY 2019-House L-HHS bill
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants N/A $2,789,832,000 $2,967,360,000 N/A
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000  $900,000,000 $54,444,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,103,360,000 $62,500,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $964,000,000 $60,584,000
Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants N/A   $663,052,000 $680,000,000   $16,948,000
Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants N/A $6,000,000 $8,000,000 $2,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants N/A $160,000,000 $250,000,000 $90,000,000
DW N/AtioN/Al Reserve N/A $220,859,000 $370,859,000 $150,000,000
N/Ative American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $500,000
Ex-Offender Activities N/A $93,079,000 $100,000,000 $6,921,000
Migrant and SeasoN/Al Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $98,896,000 $10,000,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $127,500,000 $37,966,000
Senior Community Service Employment Program N/A $400,000,000 $463,800,000 $63,800,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,868,655,000 $150,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000 N/A
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants N/A $1,262,598,000 $1,300,000,000 $37,400,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $664,555,000 $22,600,000
Posted In: Federal Funding, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce
« Show Older Posts