Workforce Investment Act of 2013 Gets Boost from HELP Committee

The proposed newest version of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), representing a bipartisan effort to breathe new life into the 15-year-old bill, recently underwent a legislative markup for reauthorization by members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

It was the second such attempt at a markup in as many years to get bipartisan approval, but whereas the 2011 attempt failed to reach an accord among members, the July 31 meeting outcome was an 18-3 vote to advance the bill with only Senators Burr, Scott, and Roberts voting “no”.

The proposed changes to the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) aim to modernize the U.S. workforce development system by addressing oversights, thereby streamlining and improving the method of providing support and assistance to unemployed and low-income job seekers.

It is a process that has drawn differing opinions and reauthorization bids over the course of the year. KRA Corporation recently posted articles outlining the proposed changes to WIA legislation from both sides of the aisle in House Reauthorization bills (HR 798 and HR 803).

The action taken by the committee was welcomed by many supporters of an updated approach to workforce development. Most notably, newly-appointed secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez was quick to praise the committee’s decision to move the bill forward.

In one of his most recent news releases he came out in support of the committee’s actions saying: “We applaud the U.S. Senate for taking a major step in that direction with the bipartisan approval by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013.”

In extrapolating his views, he said: “We need a demand-driven approach to workforce development, one that responds to the needs of employers and prepares people for the jobs that are actually available. We need to align the workforce system with regional economies and establish a more integrated network of American Job Centers. We need to promote innovation and strengthen performance evaluation in the system, so consumers can get information about programs and services that work and taxpayers know we are spending their dollars wisely.”

Social Policy organization, CLASP, also offered their praise but in a blog post but claimed that there was more to be done. In his post, Neil Ridley, writes: “S. 1356 is a step forward, compared to current law, but there is still room for improvement” He later goes on to state: “As the Senate moves forward with reauthorization, additional safeguards should be put in place to ensure that adults with diverse needs for assistance have access to services in every local area.”

KRA is heartened by the senate committee’s rapid action. It is an acknowledgment of the pressing need for a fresh approach to helping millions of Americans looking for employment to find jobs, as well as the education and skills to be competitive in the evolving employment marketplace.

KRA Corporation looks forward to monitoring the legislation as it moves forward. We applaud the initiatives and actions of law and policy makers dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live. KRA will continue to support the mission of Federal, state, and local agencies that are dedicated to this cause as we have since 1981.