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Ms. KAPTUR. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act. This bill does not position our workers to complete in the new economy.
Despite what Wall Street and some economists think, America is still in a recession and plowing our way forward to full recovery. This nation has a jobs crisis that should be the number one priority for this Congress.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, when you consider persons marginally attached to the workforce, the real unemployment rate is over 14 percent, not 7.7 percent.
The unemployment rate for construction workers is 15.7 percent, for teenagers it is 25.1 percent, and for transportation and production the unemployment rate is 10 percent.
There are over 12 million people unemployed in this country with 4.8 million considered long-term unemployed. That means over 40 percent of the unemployed individuals in the United States have been jobless for 27 weeks or more.
Madam Chair, I agree with my Republican colleagues that we need to reform our Workforce Investment Act (WIA) job training programs to meet the challenges of today's labor market. However, the bill before us fails to make the needed reforms to help the 12 million unemployed individuals in this country.
The underlying bill creates a one-size-fits-all Workforce Investment Fund that will ultimately disadvantage workers with disabilities, youth, older workers, women and disabled veterans.
H.R. 803 freezes job training funding levels through fiscal year 2020. These programs have been cut in half already and this bill makes those cuts permanent. We should be closing corporate tax loopholes to invest in our workers, not penalizing workers even more. One balances budgets when people go back to work. This bill should be written to that end.
I'm also particularly concerned that the bill eliminates the requirements that community colleges and non-profits be represented on local Workforce Investment Boards. What is stopping local Boards from being dominated by some business interests and turning into another form of corporate welfare? Education and training are the roads forward to the future. America cannot afford to ignore those most able to teach and train to the future.
I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this bill.
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