Faith Groups: Republican WIA Reauthorization Bill Steers Federal Support Away from the Most Vulnerable

A group of faith based organizations, including the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, NETWORK, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, have written a letter to the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce expressing their concerns with the Republican’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill, H.R. 4297, which is scheduled to be marked up tomorrow at 10 am. It’s a good letter, because it focuses on the crux of what many seem to agree is the fundamental problem with the bill:

H.R. 4297 eliminates the current priority of service for low-income adults and those with barriers to employment. Without priority, dislocated workers, youth, older workers, and those in areas of highest unemployment would continue to be at a disadvantage. Low-income adults now represent only about half of those receiving intensive services or training services with adult employment and training funding, despite their increased rates of unemployment. Elimination of the priority of services, including necessary supportive services like child care and transportation, would further weaken access to these services to low-income adults and youth.

Rather than cutting back on the range of services needed by low-income individuals, low-wage workers, and those with barriers to employment, our interfaith community would prefer to see job training and job creation programs focus specifically on low-income communities and vulnerable populations. Unless special and specific efforts are made to include them, certain distressed communities with disproportionately high unemployment or low earnings will be left out of the mainstream economic recovery. Properly crafted WIA reauthorization legislation must consider populations with unique needs— such as people of color, displaced workers, workers with disabilities, older workers, low-income youth, and people with limited-English proficiency—by providing worker retraining, education assistance, job placement and other job related services. (my emphasis)

In fact, a WIA bill that “focused specifically on low-income communities and vulnerable populations” would be an interesting piece of legislation.