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Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Madam Chair, I thank the ranking member, my friend from California, and I rise in opposition to the SKILLS Act.

Workforce investment has an important role in Congress, and it could and should be done in a bipartisan way. The government has a role to play in setting standards to preserve fairness and to expand access. The so-called SKILLS Act seeks to combine and reduce vital programs. It takes 35 programs and identifies them for elimination, and it says the Federal Government will leave a bushel basket full of money on the steps of each State capitol. This is an abdication of our responsibility to think hard, to work hard, to set standards.

What some on the other side might call ``red tape'' or ``overregulation'' I would call ``standards'' in order to see that the workforce investment programs really address the needs of individuals with disabilities or the needs of identifiable groups, such as veterans and youth, who deserve our help, and that it will provide good services for those who need the help most, not the easiest cases: say, single parents, whose daily struggles with food and housing and transportation and child care make job training difficult.

We had good ideas, the Democrats, ideas that were similar to what went into the original Workforce Investment Act--ways to improve these programs and make them serve all of these Americans. H.R. 803, for example, does not support library resource centers. It ignores individuals with disabilities and incumbent workers. The bill doesn't allow libraries to partner fully in the workforce investment programs.

Last year, I introduced an amendment to authorize libraries to engage in statewide employment and training activities. No such this year. Many low-wage workers, often single mothers, struggling, need special help. My home State of New Jersey had online learning for low-income workers. By creating grants for online learning, such as laptops at home, we could provide many of these workers who have to stay at home and raise families the opportunity to improve their skills and enter the new economy. Yes, that should be in this program for the Nation.

The Rehabilitation Act is intended to aid individuals with disabilities. The amendments to the Rehabilitation Act in this bill before us today would reduce significantly the services for individuals with disabilities by eliminating programs and eliminating those dedicated funding streams, and saying instead: Well, you can do it if you want to.

Incumbent workers do not get the help they need here. This act does nothing to improve those people in low-level positions who have the opportunity, with help, to move upward.

We need to work together to provide our Nation's job seekers the resources and training they need. And we here in the Federal Government have a responsibility to set the standards to see that people of all sorts who need the help have the access.


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