Congress Should Sustain Recovery Act Funding for Workforce Development

Mar 18, 2010

By Evelyn Ganzglass

Below is an excerpt of Ms. Ganzglass's March 17 oral testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. The subcommittee hearing focused on 2011 budget priorities for labor and education. Download Ms. Ganzglass's written testimony.

The infusion of new money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has allowed the Workforce Investment Act system to expand access to training, increase services to low-income adults, and increase one-stop services to meet unprecedented need for retraining and reemployment services during the economic recession. 

The WIA system quickly mounted a summer youth employment program in 2009 that served more than 300,000 young people. A study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University found that for every dollar of wage expenditures, $1.64 was returned to the regional economy. Besides providing much-needed income to low income youth, the program gave them exposure to a wide variety of work environments and connected them to a host of skill-building opportunities. 

There is limited national data on the use of recovery act WIA funds beyond the summer program, but indications are that the system has helped unemployed workers find new jobs, and helped low-skill, low-income workers build skills and improve their long-run job prospects.

The number of participants in the Adult Program increased by 10 percent in the first quarter of Program Year (PY) 2009 compared to the final quarter of PY 2008 and the number of participants receiving training increased by 13 percent.  

The FY 2011 budget: 

CLASP welcomes the Administration's focus on increasing investment in training and improving services for low-income youth and adults and supports the proposed new investments in innovation and research, Transitional Jobs and on-the-job training subsidies.

But, we do not think that the president's budget goes far enough to support the workforce system's role in the nation's economic recovery or to address the particularly devastating effect the recession has had on the employment prospects of young people and low-income workers. 

Congress should sustain the level of recovery act investment in workforce programs.  Funding for youth programming should be increased to $3 billion for expanded summer and year-round youth activities and for targeted grants to high-poverty communities to build pathways for youth to opportunities in growing sectors of the economy.

This level of funding is warranted after years of disinvestment in the workforce system and to meet skyrocketing demand for services. Failure to invest in America's workforce will undermine our economic recovery and put us at a disadvantage with other nations that invest more strategically in workforce training.

 

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