President Launches New Opportunity for All Initiative
As a follow-up to the State of the Union Address, President Obama has launched Opportunity For All: Empowering All Americans with the Skills Needed for In-Demand Jobs and has asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board review of the country’s federal employment and training programs to ensure that the programs are job-driven and will help people attain the right skills that employers require to fill demand-driven jobs. This effort will entail interagency cooperation of the Secretaries of Labor, Education and Commerce, as well as leaders from other federal agencies and consultation with stakeholders on best practices in workforce preparation. This is part of the President's broader initiative, Opportunity for All. The local workforce investment boards can provide invaluable expertise and perspective and look forward to contributing to this process. The NOVA Director, Kris Stadelman has already participated in a conference call discussion hosted by Vice President Biden and Labor Secretary Perez about raising the minimum wage.
In related news, the Administration has also released a new report, "Addressing the Negative Cycle of Long-Term Unemployment", announced a new $150 million ready-to-work grant program to help local organizations train long-term unemployed for high-skill jobs and is encouraging businesses to hire long-term unemployed workers.
Congress Passes New Spending Bill
In January, Congress passed a new omnibus spending bill (HR 3547) that will fund the federal government until October. Discretionary spending of $1.012 trillion is up from the current $986 billion level and the 2014 sequester level of $967 billion, but below the pre-sequester 2014 level of $1.058 trillion. The bill provides $12 billion for the U.S. Department of Labor, a cut of $449 million below the FY13 level, which includes $10.4 billion for the Employment and Training Administration. The bill also allows the transfer of up to 30 percent (up from 20 percent) between Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adults and WIA Dislocated Workers Funds. Job Corps received an increase in funding of slightly less than 5 percent. Employment services for service members and their spouses and caregivers received an increase of $19 million and the Jobs for Veterans State Grant program received an increase of 8.5 percent in funding.
Federal Extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits
The federal long-term unemployment insurance benefits expired at the end of December and have not been reinstated by Congress. Nationally, the number of long-term unemployed (jobless 27 weeks+) stands at 3.6 million and represents 35.8 percent of unemployed workers across the country. Locally, even in successful Silicon Valley, 81 percent of NOVA’s dislocated workers are considered long-term unemployed, 55 percent have been unemployed for at least a year. And the majority of NOVA’s dislocated workers are considered older workers (age 50+).
These individuals have lost their jobs through no fault of their own due to the constant churn that is common in a technology-driven economy, with emerging sectors replacing obsolete industries. It is difficult enough to be laid-off and looking for work, but to lose the critical unemployment insurance benefits that is a lifeline for these individuals and their families is a tragedy on top of an already devastating event. Without this support, these workers will fall further through the cracks, a talent pool our community and this economy cannot afford to waste.