Quagmire: Stalled WIA Reauthorization

August 11, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | 1 comment

With the logjam of the debt limit negotiations behind us, you’d think that would clear the way for other business to start moving through Congress, right? Not necessarily.

The current session has largely been categorized by polarization around spending decisions. Aside from the fact that both chambers are currently on summer vacation, quite a few legislative efforts seem to have stalled as they get bogged down in debates over spending priorities.

Take, for example, the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. The WIA expired in 2003 and there were glimmers of hope earlier this summer around a bipartisan proposal in the Senate to reauthorize it (see Local/State Funding Report, July 4, 2011).

But the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (aka HELP) has rescheduled the markup of the draft bill a few times and now it has completely fallen off the legislative schedule.

Having already been postponed at least twice, the markup was most recently scheduled for Aug. 3.  But the week before that — as Congress found itself still mired in debt limit talks — the Senate HELP Committee removed the WIA from its agenda without setting a new date.

On top of the fact that the current reauthorization bill is stalled, the National Skills Coalition has noted that further cuts to workforce investment programs are likely in the fiscal year 2012 budget negotiations that are looming on the horizon.

The organization said that the lack of movement on the WIA reauthorization “raises difficult questions about the future of the nation’s workforce investment system.”

WIA provides occupational training services and job search assistance to adults, dislocated workers and youth, many of which are delivered through local one-stop centers.

Although an effort last winter to completely eliminate the 2011 WIA program failed, the program’s funding was cut by $300 million in the continuing resolution that was ultimately enacted for FY 2011.

Even if the draft bill had continued to move forward this summer, its path certainly would’ve been rocky, with ultimate passage of the bill in the Republican-dominated House anything but sure.

Fiscal conservatives’ laser-like focus on discretionary spending cuts has put many programs on uncertain footing. And the divisive debates over federal spending of any kind have bogged down the fates of many programs.

WIA supporters acknowledge that there might be the need for improvements in the program, but with even the draft bill seemingly stalled, there’s little hope about enacting changes anytime soon.

Are there WIA-funded projects or centers in your local area? What kind of impact has it had on your community?


One Comment

  1. Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    With nearly five times the number of citizens enrolled in WIA programs since before the recession, our three county WIA region was forced to lay off 19 full time program employees and close 2 adult/dislocated worker centers. In addition, remaining offices were forced to downsize significantly to offset budget reductions. While every effort is being made to continue to serve those in need with effective services, time will tell if this is a sustainable model.

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