CHN: WIA Reauthorization Bill To Be Marked Up in Subcommittee

The House Subcommittee on 21 st Century Competitiveness is considering a bill to reform the job programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. The bill, H.R. 27, the Job Training Improvement Act of 2005, is co-sponsored by Howard McKeon (R. CA), Chairman of the subcommittee, and John Boehner (R. OH), Chairman of the full Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill is similar to one passed by the House in the previous Congress, H.R. 1261.
WIA created a system of “One-Stop” centers where workers could access job placement and training programs. The One-Stops are run by local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) under the direction of state WIBs. Services are divided into three tiers: core services, intensive services, and training. A client must begin by accessing core services (job search assistance) and can only move into the next level of service if they are still unable to obtain employment.

Advocates have decried the reduced access to job training under WIA. Two reasons cited often are the sequence of services, which some jurisdictions interpreted to require a “work-first” approach, and the diversion of funds from services into the creation of the WIA bureaucracy.

The stated goals of H.R. 27 are to make jobs programs more efficient, more responsive to the needs of workers and employers, and to bring more parties into the workforce development system. During the last Congress the Senate rejected the most controversial provisions of the House bill. Controversial provisions in this year’s bill include the following:

Funding would be consolidated through a block grant of the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs and the Wagner-Peyser employment service program and reemployment services for Unemployment Insurance recipients. Block grant proposals for other programs have in the past led to cuts to overall funding and could cause the different groups currently served by these programs to compete against each other for a shrinking pool of money.

Governors will have greater discretion to redirect funds from WIA partner programs (such as vocational rehab, veterans employment programs, unemployment insurance, trade adjustment assistance, adult education, TANF and others). It is widely believed that under WIA funds have been redirected away from services and towards building infrastructure under the WIA system (including One-Stops, WIBs and systems for handling training
vouchers). Some fear services will be further under-funded as a result of this provision.

Training is supposed to be made more widely available than under the current system of tiered services. However, the legislation apparently does not remove the sequence of services but changes some of the criteria for the sequence, and it is not yet clear how effective this will be.

The Secretary of Labor would be given the authority to expand a demonstration project that offers unemployed workers a personal account of up to $3,000 to obtain training, child care, transportation and housing assistance to facilitate the path back to work. Some advocates have called attention to the fact that this provision would limit the cost of training for the recipient and would bar WIA training services for a year after the account is established. They also point out that only seven states are participating in the current demonstration even though nine can do so, and that no expansion is warranted given the weak interest by states.

Job-training organizations that are faith-based would be allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring, which has been barred for job programs since 1982.

Advocates within the Coalition are expressing their concerns to the Subcommittee and will continue to monitor the legislation. For more information on job training, see CHN’s Job Training and Education web page.   ***Need correct link***

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