Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill Increases Federal Spending for Workforce and Education

Last week, President Obama signed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which details discretionary federal funding through September 30, 2016. Among several policy items and funding details for areas such as energy, homeland security, and health and human services, the bill includes increased funding and policy reforms for workforce development and education. Overall, the omnibus bill provides $12.18 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Labor and $68 billion for the Department of Education, respective increases of $234.6 million and $1.2 billion from FY 2015.

Included in the provisions of these increases are several key elements with the potential to impact programs and services for out-of-school and out-of-work young people. For instance, it allocates $10.06 billion for state and local community funding for employment training programs and unemployment insurance. This includes a $42 million increase for youth programs that are consistent with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and allows for statewide support of sector partnerships and career pathways. The bill also allocates $90 million for Registered Apprenticeship grants and $1.69 billion to the Office of Job Corps. The YouthBuild program for students who have dropped out of high school will receive a $5 million increase, and One-Stop Career Centers will receive a $7.5 million increase.

Through funds allocated to the Department of Education, the bill will increase the maximum Pell grant award to $5,915 and restore maximum Pell grant eligibility to “Ability-to-Benefit” students – students who have passed a basic skills test to prove their competency to benefit from college but do not have a high school diploma or the Certificate of High School Equivalency. Funds will be increased for Science Education Partnership awards to programs that establish strong career pipelines through biomedical sciences education, and funding for programs to improve college and career readiness for Native American Youth will receive a $20 million dollar increase.

Many of the programs that will be supported by this increased funding align with JobsFirstNYC’s 2014 policy paper, Unleashing the Economic Power of the 35 Percent. In the paper, we advocate for sector-based training and employment opportunities; apprenticeships; community-based partnerships; and one-stop education, training, and employment resources for young people. Moreover, these programs align with several of JobsFirstNYC’s initiatives for out-of-school and out-of-work 16-24 year olds, including our Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project, a collaborative of seven sectoral partnerships throughout New York City; the Bronx Opportunity Network, a college access network for students in the Bronx who would not otherwise pursue post-secondary education; and our placed-based, community-led workforce and economic development initiatives in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan and on Staten Island.

While we will continue to advocate for additional local, state, and national investments to decrease the number of out-of-school and out-of-work young people in New York City, the funding increases detailed above represent some important federal policy wins for young people and their advocates.

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