DEMOCRATS LAND ON SPENDING $40B IN RECONCILIATION TO TRAIN WORKERS
Democrats land on spending $40B in reconciliation to train workers

Eleanor Mueller

"If we want to help workers go back to work, and if we want to help local businesses grow, then we must ensure that the Build Back Better Act includes bold investments in workforce development programs," House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said.Paul Morigi/Getty Images for PL+US

Democrats have settled on spending $40 billion for worker training in their social spending package, after the House and Senate clashed over how much to invest.

Of that, $20 billion would go directly to workforce development programs — $13.6 billion through the Labor Department and $6.4 billion via the Education Department, according to a summary of the House-drafted bill. The other $20 billion would be spent on a Civilian Climate Corps that would create service opportunities and fund job training programs to fight climate change.

Both numbers are unlikely to change as the legislation inches toward the finish line, House and Senate Democratic aides said. Other areas of the bill that invest in child care and long-term care more broadly would also support worker development by encouraging higher wages, among other things.

"If we want to help workers go back to work, and if we want to help local businesses grow, then we must ensure that the Build Back Better Act includes bold investments in workforce development programs," House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said.

President Joe Biden initially proposed spending $100 billion on job training. But as Democrats cut the overall price tag of their spending plan to satisfy moderates, that number shrank. House Democrats cut it to $80 billion and then to $40 billion, matching a framework the White House put out in October. Senate Democrats had at one point floated spending just $15 billion on the workforce development initiatives as part of Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders' framework.

Some worker-training advocates aren't pleased with the compromise.

Even $40 billion “is not enough,” said Andy Van Kleunen, CEO of the National Skills Coalition. "Eighty billion dollars was not going to put us on par with what other countries are currently spending on training for current workers. Forty billion dollars puts us that much further in the hole.”

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which Biden is expected to sign into law next week, contains “a little over $1 billion for training,” Van Kleunen noted. “So it’s right around 1 percent of the package, which we think is way too little. We’re going to have to make up as much of that as we can with Build Back Better.”

Here's a breakdown of the job-training funds:

Labor Department:

— $2 billion over five years for grants authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, to states so they can provide career services to and fund education and training programs for dislocated workers.

— $1 billion over five years for WIOA-authorized grants to states for the same purposes, but available to all workers.

— $1.5 billion over five years for WIOA-authorized grants to states for investing in younger workers, including funding paid-work experience and partnering to serve out-of-school youth.

— $500 million would be funneled to the Employment Service, a nationwide system of public employment offices.

— $500 million to aid adults reentering the workforce and for young adults not in school or in the criminal justice system who are entering the workforce for the first time.

— $1 billion for registered apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship programs — a top priority for unions like the North America's Building Trades Union, a source close to the organization said.

— $5 billion in grants to partnerships between workforce boards, employers, unions and others to expand workforce development in high-skill and in-demand sectors.

— $500 million to the Job Corps program.

— $50 million in WIOA grants for Native American programs; $70 million to WIOA grants for migrant and seasonal farmworkers; and $15 million for the WIOA-authorized YouthBuild program.

Education Department:

— $700 million for WIOA-authorized education and literary services.

— $700 million for Perkins grants, which fund career and technical education programs.

— $5 billion to community colleges partnering with employers to expand their workforce development programs for in-demand sectors.

Workers with disabilities:

— $300 million for a new multiyear, state-administered grant program to aid employers participating in competitive integrated employment, designed to bring workers with disabilities up to the same wage and benefit levels as workers without disabilities.

Employers who accept the grants would be required to pay their workers the minimum wage, though current law allows some employers to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage. An additional $24 million would pay for grants to states that have ended or are in the process of ending that practice, and another $6 million would establish a technical assistance center to help states and employers end the practice.

Civilian Climate Corps:

— More than $15 billion to create climate-focused public service opportunities via AmeriCorps.

— More than $4 billion would go to DOL programs to train workers for jobs in climate-related fields.