Pathways Back to Work Act Introduced
By Neil Ridley
A bill introduced today would address the ongoing jobs crisis by creating work and educational opportunities for unemployed workers, those who can't qualify for unemployment benefits and other disadvantaged individuals.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal today introduced the $5 billion Pathways Back to Work Act (S. 1861), which is modeled on provisions in President Obama's American Jobs Act. Rep. George Miller has introduced a similar measure in the House (H.R. 3425).
This is the third scaled-down jobs bill based on provisions in the Americans Jobs Act to be introduced in the past month. Two other measures failed to get enough votes to move past debate.
While the nation has dealt with an unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent or higher since 2009, policymakers cannot allow this to become a new normal. Nearly 14 million people are jobless and about 9 million more are underemployed. About one-third of the unemployed have been jobless for a year or more, according to a recent analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts. Given these challenges, Congress should consider the needs of those hard hit by the jobs crisis and act promptly to pass the Pathways Back to Work Act, along with other measures that meet the needs of long-term unemployed and disadvantaged individuals.
Of the total $5 billion under the Pathways Back to Work Fund, $2 billion would be available for subsidized employment programs that are patterned on the successful Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund that created 260,000 jobs in 2009 and 2010. Governors would have the option of administering the program through TANF agencies or local workforce boards under the Workforce Investment Act or a combination of the two.
The Fund includes $1.5 billion in funding for summer and year-round employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth. A similar round of funding provided in 2009 led to paid work experience and training for nearly 360,000 young people. The bill would encourage local workforce boards to create employment opportunities in emerging or in-demand occupations and to provide year-round youth participants with education and training leading to industry-recognized credentials.
The Fund also establishes a $1.5 billion competitive grant program for a range of promising and research-based work and learning opportunities that help low-skilled adults and youth obtain education and training leading to jobs and credentials. Local grantees would apply for and receive funding to carry out:
- On-the-job training and registered apprenticeships;
- Sector-based training programs that meet the needs of groups of employers;
- Strategies that lead to industry-recognized credentials in growing fields;
- Direct work experience along with supportive services; or
- Adult basic education services or integrated education and training models that allow students to acquire basic skills and postsecondary credentials.
In addition to addressing the jobs crisis through this and other jobs measures, Congress should maintain current investments in education and workforce programs that help people prepare for work, build skills and find jobs in a tough labor market.