Senior Policy Analyst
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee this morning discussed the supposed merits of implementing and expanding work requirements in basic assistance programs, with some lawmakers claiming they would help jobless workers land a job and achieve financial independence. But taking away the food assistance and health care that make it easier for people to find and keep a job is counterproductive, especially when policymakers also don’t provide adequate job support services for people to meet work requirements. Similarly, as we note in our new report, President Trump’s 2019 budget claims to help struggling workers, but it cuts a range of programs supporting work and economic opportunity.
The President’s budget fails to reinvest in core job training programs, sets these programs up for likely deep cuts in future years, and proposes cuts in a range of other programs that support work and opportunity. While it proposes a modest rise in apprenticeship program funding, even that’s at risk under the budget’s future cuts to overall non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding — and that modest rise would also fall well short of offsetting the cuts to other programs. Overall, the budget would:
Job training funding has been falling for several years, in large part due to the tight caps that the 2011 Budget Control Act, which were further reduced by sequestration, placed on NDD programs. Under the President’s post-addendum budget, funding for WIOA job training grants in 2019 would be 22 percent less than its 2010 level, after adjusting for inflation. And funding for job training would likely fall substantially in years after 2019 because the President’s budget calls for sharp cuts in NDD funding after 2019.
The budget mentions that the Labor and Education secretaries are developing a plan to “consolidate and reorganize Federal workforce development programs” that it says will be released in the spring of 2018, but it provides no other details. “Consolidate” and “efficiency” are terms that some policymakers have used to justify program cuts. There may be reasons to consolidate or reorganize some programs, but a key question will be whether those changes — along with the accompanying budget proposals — will mean those in need will have more or less access to high-quality job training opportunities and whether those opportunities will be sufficient to address the needs of workers and employers.
The Administration claims that it’s trying to aid those left behind in today’s economy and help more people work. But the President’s budget would also make college more expensive, underinvest in child care, target working families for cuts in assistance that help them afford the basics, and, in some cases, even reduce work incentives in existing program eligibility rules. Taken together, these proposals will make it significantly harder for people left behind to move up the economic ladder.