Last week, the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) by a vote of 220-196. Only 4 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. There have been no updates to this law since it was enacted in 2014.
WIOA is the bedrock federal statute governing workforce development programs in the U.S. Its goal is to not only train and provide workers and potential workers support services to succeed in the labor market, but also to match employers with the skilled workers they need. Before it passed the House, legislation sponsored by Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), called the Community Based Workforce Development Act, became part of the package. She introduced the bill earlier this month and it was folded into the final product on the House floor. Her bill does a number of things, including:
- Fully funding WIOA programs by authorizing roughly $80 billion over six years, allowing the workforce system to train one million workers per year by 2028;
- Establishing a Department of Labor program to help individuals released from prison to transition back to employment;
- Expanding summer and year-round jobs programs for youth;
- Strengthening the quality of the Job Corps program;
- Codifying partnerships between employers and community colleges to provide high-quality job training;
- Strengthening industry and sector partnerships to better meet the needs of both employers and job seekers; and
- Providing funding for innovative approaches to workforce development.
Unfortunately, because it was such a lopsidedly partisan vote in the House, the bill does not have a clear path forward in the Senate. In talking with Hill staff and with Members on the House Education and Labor Committee, Republicans felt left out of the process and perceived the bill as favoring organized labor interests. ABMA will continue to monitor developments and negotiations on this bill and will weigh in as appropriate.
Innovative Wood Products and Biomass Energy Grants
Last Friday, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in West Des Moines, Iowa to announce $32 million in FY 2022 funding for a number of projects deploying mass timber in buildings, as well as design and installation of heat and power systems across the country that are fueled by forest-based biomass.
The Wood Innovations and Community Wood Grants program was modified and enhanced as part of the last Farm Bill reauthorization in 2018. This program was a top advocacy priority of the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition, which played an active lobbying role in securing mandatory funding and key improvements to this program.
The announcement and more information on this critical program may be found here. A list of grant recipients may be found here.