Senate Holds Line On WIOA, Avoids Big Cuts Elsewhere

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal year 2018 spending bill that keeps current funding levels for the main Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs and avoids major cuts in other related areas proposed by the Trump Administration and House Republicans.

The committee passed its bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education on Sept. 7, on a 29-to-2 vote, with Republicans James Lankford (Okla) and Steve Daines (Mont) objecting.

This likely sets up House and Senate appropriators to negotiate a final spending plan later in the year, probably before the end-of-December holidays. The full Senate has yet to vote on any FY 2018 spending bills and the full House has passed only its

Defense Department measure. On the morning of the committee vote on the DOL-HHS-ED bill, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss) endorsed a plan to package together disaster relief funding, an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling and a three month continuing resolution to keep the government open. This passed the full Senate on an 80-to-17 vote later that afternoon. The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30. A day earlier, President Trump said he agreed to this path forward with House Democratic leaders.

The Senate bill provides about $164 billion in discretionary spending, nearly $800 million less than is available this year. More than $61 million is reduced in DOL’s budget. However, most funding streams related to workforce development are held level.

This is the case for the WIOA adult, dislocated worker and youth programs, which faced a 40 percent reduction in the president’s budget.

The Wagner Peyser Employment Service would be funded at more than $666 million. That’s a reduction of $5 million, or 0.75 percent. The House’s spending plan seeks to eliminate ES funding, and the president’s budget proposed a 40 percent reduction. FY 2018 funding that is allotted to states in workforce funding streams becomes available in July 2018, at the start of the federal program year.

The Dislocated Worker National Reserve, which provides grants to help communities and states respond to mass layoffs and natural disasters would receive $221 million from the Senate bill, the same amount put aside for this year. Both the House and the administration proposed major reductions for the reserve fund, but that was before the hurricane season started.

Senate appropriators protected funding for the now $400 million Senior Community Service Employment Program, which the administration sought to eliminate and the House seeks to reduce by 25 percent.

Likewise, the bill would continue the National Farmworker Jobs Program, which was zeroed out in the president’s budget. Senators also supported level funding, at $95 million, for apprenticeship grants, which the House bill would eliminate.

The administration, House and Senate spending plans would all reduce funding for state unemployment insurance operations by varying degrees. The Senate plan is the most generous, offering $2.638 billion, about $50 million less than the current funding level. The Senate bill carves $130 million out of state UI administrative grants for reemployment and eligibility assessment programs, a $15 million increase above current spending.