CHN: President Proposes Far-Reaching Changes to WIA

Bush Seeks to Block Grant Workforce Investment Programs
On March 7, President Bush unveiled details of his proposal to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which is set to expire on September 30, 2003. Enacted in 1998, WIA established a comprehensive workforce investment system that provides an array of resources to both employers and job seekers. Anti-poverty advocates, anticipating a relatively straightforward reauthorization, are dismayed by the sweeping changes in program funding and administration Bush has proposed.

Most significantly, the President’s plan calls for consolidating three programs – the WIA Adult program, the WIA Dislocated Worker program, and Employment Service state grants (administered under the Wagner-Peyser Act) – into a $3.1 billion block grant to the states. The merging of these programs would eliminate their distinct funding streams, threatening the delivery of particular services. Furthermore, advocates worry that transforming WIA into a block grant could significantly reduce funding for its programs over time. The President has also proposed giving the Secretary of Labor authority to grant waivers to states to circumvent certain regulations governing WIA, including those providing for worker protections.

Legislation was introduced in the House March 13 that largely mirrors the President’s plan, although it does not include the waiver provision. The bill is slated for mark up in the Education and Workforce Committee next week, and GOP leaders would like to move it to the House floor for a vote before Congress’ spring recess.

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