Late last month, freshman Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), member of the House Committee on Small Business, joined Committee Chairman Roger Williams (R-TX) in introducing H.R. 1730, the Supporting Small Business and Career and Technical Education Act, to require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist small business owners in hiring career and technical education program graduates. Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced identical legislation in the Senate, S. 936.
Fewer Americans are pursuing careers in skilled trades at a time when older Americans who provide these services are entering retirement. As a result, the national economy is lacking workers in key industries, such as construction and nursing, to keep up with demand.
The Supporting Small Business Career and Technical Education Act aims to solve both problems. The bill helps small business owners fill gaps in their workforce by connecting them with graduates of vocational programs through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Women Business Centers (WBCs). The Supporting Small Business Career and Technical Education Act also offers resources from the SBDC and WBC that can assist graduates from vocational programs in starting their own small businesses.
“Success is still too often defined as having a college degree, and that often results in the lack of investment in career and technical education programs. Not only do we need to expand these programs, but we also need to make sure that students can be connected to good-paying jobs after they graduate,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “This bipartisan bill is an important step forward in that effort and I want to thank Chairman Williams for working with me to support CTE students and small businesses across the country.”
Wood Products Innovation Legislation Introduced
Just before Congress left town for the Easter/Passover recess, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), along with Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME), introduced the Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act (H.R.2386) a bipartisan bill to strengthen the United States Forest Service (USFS)’s Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Grant Program (CWEWIP). It also modernizes and increases the federal share of project costs for another USFS grant program, the Wood Innovations Grant Program. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) plan to introduce the legislation in the U.S. Senate.
The CWEWIP provides funding for grants to install thermally led community wood energy systems or to build innovative wood product manufacturing facilities. Currently, the program is oversubscribed, making it difficult for small and rural communities to get access to federal funding to build markets and products for forest products.
Specifically, the Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act would:
- Improve the Forest Service’s Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Grant Program, which aids the construction of small wood products facilities, by:
- Increasing the authorization from $25 million to $50 million per year.
- Increasing the maximum grant per facility from $1 million to $5 million.
- Increasing the federal cost-share from 35 percent to 50 percent.
- Increasing the maximum size for community wood energy systems eligible for grant funding from 5 to 15 megawatts.
- Changing the program’s name to Community Wood Facilities Grant Program to avoid the current confusion with the similarly named Wood Innovations Grant Program.
- Lower the Wood Innovations Grant Program minimum non-federal cost-share from 50 percent to 33.3 percent. The program provides grants for proposed innovative uses and applications and the expansion of markets for wood products such as mass timber.
“Forestry is the backbone of Southwest Washington. Having strong markets for wood products are essential to the industry’s success and Southwest Washington’s success,” said Congresswoman Gluesenkamp Perez. “This bipartisan bill will help rebuild jobs in the woods and keep our forests healthy while supporting timber communities.”
“The forest products industry is crucial to the economy of Central Washington and delivers essential products to the entire country,” said Congressman Newhouse. “I am proud to support this legislation that will strengthen the Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovations Grant Program, help create jobs in the forest products industry, and maintain the health of our forests.”
“Federal forest grant programs are an essential part of Maine’s robust forestry industry—helping create quality jobs, strengthen rural economies, and support new forest products markets. To meet the changing needs of the industry and to support the forest products sector as part of the climate solution, these programs need to be updated,” said Congresswoman Pingree, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. “Our bicameral Community Wood Facilities Assistance Act would make investments to support renewable wood energy projects and create new market opportunities to support Maine’s important heritage industry well into the future.”