L/SFR Sneak Peek: WIA Reauthorization Advancing in Senate

June 28, 2011 | By Adrianne Fielding | Post a Comment

(This post is excerpted from an article in the July 4 Local/State Funding Report.) A bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) that expired in 2003 is advancing in the Democratic Senate, but its ultimate passage faces long odds in the Republican House, where fiscal conservatives are more focused on enacting deep spending cuts to discretionary programs, especially in the areas of labor, health care and human services.

WIA supporters expect House GOP lawmakers to again try to reduce the program, but the legislative work has value even if the fate of reauthorization is uncertain, said Rachel Gragg, federal policy director for the National Skills Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based worker advocacy organization that was among many groups reviewing the Senate’s draft bill language that was released in mid-June.

Referring to the House effort last winter to eliminate WIA’s 2011 program, Gragg said that “many of us who argued against the funding cuts — particularly the very, very deep funding cuts — acknowledge that there are things that can be improved in the program but the place to do that is through reauthorization and not by cutting or eliminating funding.”

WIA provides services to adults, dislocated workers and youth to help them gain occupational training and job search assistance. Many of these services are delivered through local one-stop centers. Since WIA’s reauthorization is “many years past due,” Gragg said, lawmakers who wanted to slice its funding justified doing so by saying that it’s an unauthorized program and raising questions about whether it is working. A reauthorization bill reported out by the Senate would show not only that WIA has support in Congress but also that the overall program can be improved, she said. A formal Senate bill is expected to be introduced before an upcoming markup by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

For more on the WIA reauthorization debates, including proposals for realigning WIA around core programs, subscribers can look to their July 4 issue of Local/State Funding Report.

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