House Appropriators Propose Technical Changes, Setting the Stage for Drastic Cuts to Workforce Programs

Oct 07, 2011

By Neil Ridley

Although the details are still murky, a draft House funding bill appears to make sharp reductions in workforce programs at a time when unemployment remains at crisis levels.

Last week, House appropriators released a draft FY 2012 Labor Health and Human Services appropriations bill that would reduce funding for employment and training programs at the Department of Labor by more than $2 billion. The bill proposes technical changes to the funding schedule for a range of workforce programs that help unemployed workers, low-income adults and disadvantaged youth find jobs and build skills to secure better jobs. Although the bill's full impact is not clear, it appears to slash funding that would be available to provide job and training assistance during the summer and autumn of 2012. Other programs affected by the proposal include the migrant and seasonal farmworker program and employment assistance provided by state workforce agencies.

It makes little sense to implement sweeping and potentially disruptive changes to the funding schedule of these programs while the economy continues to suffer the lingering effects of the recession. It is also counterproductive to make drastic cuts to workforce programs when 14 million Americans remain unemployed and are struggling to find jobs in a weak economy.

Various researchers have determined that workforce programs are valuable, generating increased employment and earnings for disadvantaged individuals. A non-experimental evaluation conducted in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that workforce services, including training, are effective interventions for adults and dislocated workers. A new non-experimental study by the Utah Department of Workforce Services found that participants in degree programs, occupational training and paid internships had higher employment and earnings than control group participants. (See Research Shows the Effectiveness of Workforce Programs: A Fresh Look at the Evidence >>)

It is not yet clear whether the House Appropriations Committee will act on this draft bill. It will, at a minimum, serve as a starting point for discussions about a final funding bill for FY 2012 which must be passed by Thanksgiving.

See related article: Threats to Pell Grants Materialize in the House >>

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