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Proposed Budgets and the Workforce: What Will Happen?

Fund Our Future : Stop the Cuts - National Dem...

Fund Our Future : Stop the Cuts – National Demonstration (Photo credit: Matt Dinnery)

Anyone who has lived on a budget knows that budgets are used to set the overall spending limits for a family or household, so they don’t exceed their spending and go broke. Congress faces the same challenges for the country, on a much larger scale. They also have to make a lot more difficult decisions, affecting millions of lives.

As expected, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan released his 2014 budget today. And, as expected, workforce development programs are highlighted as an opportunity to cut funding. There is very little to like in this budget for a person in my field, and it is terrible for workforce programs.

  • Pell Grants:  Currently, Pell Grants are funded as part by mandatory funding (which means that the government MUST fund) and discretionary funding (which can be adjusted/eliminated).  The Ryan Budget calls for moving ALL Pell Grant funding over to discretionary funding and keep the maximum award at FY12 levels.    The downside to this approach is that if Pell Grants move over to discretionary, they are competing with all education/labor/health programs for a shrinking overall funding source. This means for low-income individuals looking to go back to school, not having resources to do it themselves, the competition for those much needed dollars is going to get stiffer.
  • Workforce /Job Training Programs:  This budget consolidates federal job-training programs into more targeted career-scholarship programs.  It also adopts a proposal from President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget to close chronically low-performing Job Corps centers.   Naturally, we do not want low performing centers to receive funding, but the specific targeting of other workforce programs is extremely troubling.  The Foxx bill touted in this budget bill already cuts programs by almost $1.3 billion. 
  • Advanced Funding:  If approved, the budget would allow as of July 1, 2014 there would be no new WIA grants to States and local workforce areas until the following year.  Basically, dislocated workers and low income adults and youth seeking retraining would take a hard hit.

There is little doubt that this bill will receive approval by the full House budget committee and probably will sail through the full House of Representatives in a very partisan manner. The lower the funding level, the more programs will have to fight for crumbs. Programs that work with re-employment or retraining are being specifically targeted by the Ryan bill, making our fight for those crumbs more difficult.

As a counselor working to help jobseekers get retraining and assistance to find gainful employment for themselves and their families, I am strongly against this measure. I do not play party politics, but I do know when it is time to let our representatives know when they’re about to do something dangerous for the recovery of our nation’s economy. Ask your legislators to preserve workforce development programs.

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About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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