Congress Sends Workforce and Job Training Bill to the President

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) a bipartisan, bicameral bill that was the result of months of negotiations between House and Senate leaders.  The bill, which received wide support (415 to 6), will modernize and improve the federal workforce development programs aimed at helping workers attain the skills needed for 21st century jobs.   The legislation recently passed through the U.S. Senate with overwhelming support (95 to 3, with 2 no votes) and now awaits the President’s signature.

 The bipartisan bill, which has not been updated since the original passage in 1998, provides a variety of improvements to reflect the changing needs of the U.S. workforce and labor market.  Some of the changes include: 

• Reauthorizes the program for six years, from 2015 – 2020.
• Restores the Workforce Investment Act’s 15 percent state set-aside for flexibility.
• Focuses on streamlining and coordinating reporting and performance measures.
• Eliminates 15 duplicative programs, including pilot and demonstration projects.
• Maintains the current structure of the state-based Workforce Investment Boards, but reduces the number of required members.
• Coordinates state and local plans – requires a single plan to cover all programs under the bill to align the strategy and execution of such plan. 
• Sets specific funding levels for FY2015 – 2020 to provide more certainty.  This includes a 17 percent increase through 2020, in line with the Bipartisan Budget Act.

The legislation has also received strong support from state and local governments, businesses, labor, education organizations, public policy think tanks, and other organizations.   These organizations applaud Congress for their strong and expeditious support, and are equally excited for the President to sign the new legislation into law.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee stated, “today’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote is proof that Congress is still capable of working across party lines to break through the gridlock and invest in American workers and the economy.   I’ve seen firsthand that federal workforce programs can change lives, boost our economy, and get people back to work, but we can’t expect to adequately train Americans for jobs at Boeing or Microsoft with programs designed in the 1990s.  With the global economy changing faster than ever, we need to make sure that when new, 21st Century jobs are created, we have Americans ready to fill them.”

U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, also praised the passage of the bill.  “There is longstanding, bipartisan agreement that the current workforce development system is broken and this bill turns that bipartisan consensus into action. It will remove bureaucratic hurdles to help people access services immediately and require that education programs focus on in-demand skills.  Programs will be held to account through common performance metrics and face funding cuts if they fail to do their job. This legislation empowers state and local workforce leaders by providing funding flexibility to meet the unique needs of their communities and streamlines reporting requirements to ensure the focus is on services, rather than duplicative reports. Today’s vote is the culmination of an 18 month process of legislating the old fashioned way: discussion, negotiation and compromise.  This has been a bipartisan and bicameral process, and although it has been trying at times, it has been a privilege to play a role in it.”