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Mr. CONNOLLY. Madam Chair, the demand for employment services and skills training continues to grow. In my Northern Virginia district, the local Workforce Investment Board fielded nearly 90,000 requests for job search assistance last year, and those requests have increased 170% since 2007. During my tenure as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I served as the Chief Local Elected Official on the Workforce Investment Board and witnessed firsthand the collaboration among local businesses, community colleges, universities, nonprofits, governments and other community organizations to offer valuable skills training and workforce support in our community.
The federal Workforce Investment Act was enacted 15 years ago, and its authorization expired 10 years ago. Thankfully Congress has continued to fund these vital services to help job-seekers access the training they need to find work and help employers find the skilled workers they need to operate. While the Workforce Investment Act is long overdue for modernization, the bill before the House today, H.R. 803, falls short of the mark. Under the guise of efficiency, it eliminates 35 workforce programs currently serving low-income adults, seniors, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and youth. By converting to block grant funding, it shifts too much authority to the states at the expense of local jurisdictions. That is why organizations like the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Workforce Boards oppose H.R. 803. In fact, my local workforce board estimates that local governments will face an additional financial burden under this legislation at a time when their budgets can least afford it. In addition, this bill sets an arbitrarily low level of funding and freezes it for the next six years. These investments are creating a more skilled and productive workforce. We ought to be investing more not less in this effort, yet workforce funding has been cut in half over the past decade. And lastly, this bill unnecessarily changes the makeup of local workforce board membership at the expense of local community organizations, which is why groups like the Easter Seals, Goodwill, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Coalition for Literacy, the United Way, and others oppose it.
The Workforce Investment Act has until recently been a bipartisan effort, and I urge my colleagues to pursue reforms that will renew that tradition to better serve those seeking work assistance in our communities.
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