Washington Watch: House OKs WIOA; Senate up next?

With Tuesday’s overwhelming House passage of the A Stronger Workforce for America Act (ASWAA), which reauthorizes the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staffers are busy working on their own bipartisan legislation, with the stated goal of approving a bill in committee by Memorial Day. But details of their discussions remain scarce.

The Senate is not expected to take up the House bill but rather craft its own legislation, though there may be similarities between the two at the end of the day. Despite the lopsided 378-26 House vote in favor of ASWAA, many stakeholders cited concerns with the legislation that will surely influence the Senate debate. For instance, they argue that ASWAA’s requirement that 50% of local funds be dedicated to training will make it difficult to provide other valuable services, including supportive services.

The American Association of Community Colleges, along with the Association for Community College Trustees, sent a letter of support for ASWAA in advance of the House vote. ASWAA’s authorization of the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants program and an easier WIOA approval process for programs that qualify for workforce Pell grants were significant factors behind our support. We hope to see those features in a Senate bill.

Final enactment of a WIOA reauthorization bill this year will depend on the Senate acting, and the degree to which the Senate and House bills differ. But stakeholders remain cautiously optimistic that it can be done.

What about Workforce Pell?

There is no word yet on when the House might take another crack at passing the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act (BWPA). The bill was scheduled for a floor vote on Leap Day but was pulled at the 11th hour because of mounting opposition to the bill, largely (but not exclusively) because the bill paid for itself by imposing risk-sharing on private universities that are subject to the endowment tax.

After the vote was canceled, both Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) and Ranking Minority Member Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) have publicly stated that they intend to bring BWPA back to the floor, but they will first need to identify a different cost offset. Stay tuned.

About the Author

Jim Hermes
Jim Hermes is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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