Last week as everyone was paying attention to the crisis at the Mexican border, violence in Israel, and shootings in Chicago, Congress actually got something relevant done. Although the 113th Congress is set to be the least productive Congress since 1965, a jobs bill passed last week and is on the President’s desk.
In terms of substantive legislation there has been very few significant pieces to discuss since January 2013.
But when the House passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act last week to relative media silence, the first bill related to urban jobs was one huge step closer to becoming law.
Introduced by min-Cardinal Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate in July 2013, the legislation has many features in the Urban Jobs Act which has been backed for years by the National Urban League.
“This bill is a gigantic deal. There has not been a bill focused on urban jobs and disaffected young people in probably a decade or more,” Fattah said after the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed last week.
“Supporting education and training for our youth is a smart investment that can help rebuild local economies and pay dividends over the long term,” said Sen. Gillibrand in a statement on the Workforce Act. “This effort would give organizations the tools and resources they need to help our youth prepare for future jobs,” she added.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorizes federal job training programs and provides federal funding to nonprofit organizations — “particularly those who have dropped out of high school or have been subject to the criminal justice process” according to Gillibrand’s office.
The bill was part of a bi-partisan effort led by Fattah who was joined by Republicans Rep. Virginia Foxx, Rep. John Kline and Sen. Johnny Isakson in the Senate.
Even amidst Republican babbling about “ineffective” and “duplicative” federal job training programs, the Workforce Innovation bill made it through the House and Senate by overwhelming numbers. The bill passed 415-to-6 in the House and 95-to-3 in the Senate. The President is set to sign the bill into law soon.
“To increase U.S. competitiveness, we must educate, train, attract, and invest in employees who are able to compete and grow in the 21st century. WIOA is a bipartisan compromise…and it would provide a reasonable path towards a long- overdue reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act,” read a statement by the conservative and frequently unhappy U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“With the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by the House of Representatives, millions of unemployed and under-employed workers and urban youth and youth of color can now receive the skills, training and support services they need to chart a path to a better future,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial,
“The decade-plus wait for congressional renewal of the nation’s preeminent job training legislation was a long time coming, and Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Fattah are to be commended for their tenacity, commitment and leadership in creating a bi-partisan bill, which incorporates crucial components of the Urban Jobs Act.”