In this Memorandum we report on the status of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization legislation in light of the potential for Congress to take up this legislation, either as a standalone bill or added to a bill that would extend unemployment insurance. We report on some provisions that are of particular interest to tribes and tribal organizations, including the House bill’s proposed repeal of the WIA Section 166 Native American Program, replacing its provisions with a one percent allocation of funds to be administered by the Secretary of Labor.
Pending WIA bills also include reauthorization of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Education Act and the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.
The Workforce Investment Act is designed to increase coordination among federal workforce development programs through a One-Stop delivery system. Activities may include services such as: basic education; classroom and on-the-job training; counseling; job search assistance; and vocational rehabilitation services. There are 3,000 One-Stop centers nationwide. The WIA authorization expired in 2003 but Congress has continued to appropriate funding for it.
Status of Bills. On March 15, 2013, the House of Representatives passed WIA legislation, HR 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Skills Act (SKILLS Act), on nearly a party line vote of 215-202. The preceding vote in the House Education and Workforce Committee markup saw 23 Republicans voting yes and 18 Democrats not voting but instead walking out of the markup stating that they had been left out of the process of drafting the bill. The Senate WIA bill, S 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013, has bipartisan support and was reported out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on July 31, 2013, by a vote of 18 to 3. The full Senate has not voted on the bill.
HR 803. The differences between the House and Senate bills are wide. The House bill, citing a 2011 General Accountability Office report regarding numerous and sometimes overlapping federal job training programs, would eliminate or consolidate 35 programs into a state block grant to be distributed by formula called the Workforce Investment Fund (WIF). It would increase the role of the states and, in an effort to more closely align job training with the job market, the State and Local Investment Boards would include more representation from the business community (66 percent, up from 51 percent). Workforce Investment Boards would be required to indicate how they will serve the employment/training needs of various groups, including: Native Americans; veteran; at-risk youth; ex-offenders; disabled workers; migrant and seasonal farmworkers; and refugees. States would be able to include, upon secretarial approval, programs in the WIF which are not part of the block grant as set forth in the bill (i.e., the employment and training portion of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, vocational rehabilitation, adult education, and vocational education).
The bill would require that the affected federal programs reduce their administrative jobs in light of the workforce program consolidations and the increased role of the states.
Section 166 Native American Program Authorization would be Repealed. Among the repealed program authorizations would be the Section 166 Native American Program and the Supplemental Youth Activities Program. At the same time, the bill would reserve 1 percent of the WIF for a Native American Program to be administered through the Secretary of Labor. The bill, as it was approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee, would have provided up to one percent for tribes, but an amendment offered by Representative Young (R-AK) was approved on a voice vote that changed it to a required one percent. If Congress would fully fund the WIF at the bill’s authorized level ($6.25 billion), the tribal program would receive $62.5 million, about the same amount as is available now to tribes through the Section 166 and Supplemental Youth Services programs combined. Gone, however, would be: the current law’s provisions regarding funding being distributed in a manner that is consistent with the Indian Self-Determination Act; the specific authorization for tribes to consolidate their WIA funding through Public Law 102-477 consolidated programs; and the requirement for a Native American Employment and Training Council. HR 803 provides simply that the Secretary of Labor shall:
“reserve 1 percent of the total amount appropriated under section 137 for a fiscal year to make grants to, and enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with Indian tribes, tribal organizations, Alaska-Native entities, Indian-controlled organizations serving Indians, or Native Hawaiian organizations to carry out employment and training activities”.
Program Authorizations Repealed. Additional program authorizations would be repealed but their funding would be included in the WIF program. Within the total WIF funding, a certain amount is allocated for the Secretary to administer for specific purposes, including: 1 percent for Native American employment and training activities ($62.5 million as mentioned above); 0.5 percent for technical assistance and evaluations ($31.2 million); 25 percent for Job Corps ($1.56 billion); 3.5 percent for national emergency grant activities ($218.5 million); and following these, reserves 0.0025 percent for outlying areas ($11 million). Other programs whose funding would be rolled into the WIF, but for which there are not specific allocations include: WIA Adult Activities; WIA Youth Activities; WIA Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs; YouthBuild; and Veterans Workforce Investment Program. These programs would lose current statutory provisions which are specific to them.
Democratic opposition to HR 803 centers on the dismantling of the current youth workforce system, the change in membership of the Workforce Investment Boards (feeling that non-employer stakeholders will be marginalized) and the possibility that various groups now served by the repealed program authorizations would not receive sufficient services. The Administration opposes HR 803.
S 1356. While the Senate WIA bill would make many changes to WIA programs, it does not propose the consolidation of programs as does the House bill. It would largely retain the current Section 166 Native American program language. The main change is that the tribal programs would need to comply with the primary performance indicators set out in section 131(b)(2)(A) of the bill which requires tracking of program participants regarding employment and earnings and subsequent education and training. Consistent with current law, the Secretary would, in consultation with the Native American Employment and Training Council, develop an additional set of performance indicators and standards that are specifically geared toward Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, including taking into account economic and geographic considerations.
Another change from current law would be that the grants would be for 4-year periods as opposed to the current system of 2-year grants with the possibility of a 2-year extension for programs that have performed satisfactorily. Finally, under the current Native American WIA program, the Secretary is authorized to provide assistance to American Samoans in Hawaii; the Senate bill would authorize the Secretary instead to provide assistance to the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., and the University of Hawaii at Maui for the “unique populations who reside in Alaska or Hawaii, respectively, to improve job training and workforce investment activities.”
Vocational Rehabilitation Act. With regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, neither bill would change the current tribal funding allocation of 1 to 1.5 percent of the state vocational rehabilitation grant amount. In FY 2014, tribes received $37.2 million in vocational rehabilitation funding (one percent of the state grant amount).
Discussions are underway between House and Senate committees regarding a possible resolution to the differing bills. Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the Workforce Investment Act legislation.