WASHINGTON, March 4, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today released the president's fiscal year 2015 budget for the Department of Labor, which supports the president's plan to further grow the economy and create more jobs in America.
"In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that we are all united as Americans by the belief we share in 'opportunity for all,' the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can make it in America. This budget request works to ensure that Americans have the skills they need for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow, and also protects the health, safety and retirement savings of workers," said Secretary Perez.
The fiscal year 2015 president's budget for the Department of Labor includes $11.8 billion in discretionary funding, along with new, dedicated mandatory funds. The budget includes funding and reforms that will better prepare workers for jobs; protect their wages, working conditions and safety; provide a safety net for those who lose their jobs or are hurt on the job; and promote secure retirements. While the budget adheres to the spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, it also illustrates the president's vision for an economy that promotes opportunity for all Americans with a fully paid for Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.
The budget supports reforms to improve training and employment programs to help workers gain skills and return to work more quickly. It proposes to streamline access to federal job training programs, more fully engage employers to ensure training is directed at ready-to-fill-jobs in the marketplace, and improve the efficiency and employment outcomes of the department's programs. The budget proposes the creation of the New Careers Pathways program, which would provide job assistance to a million Americans and combine the best features of the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers program and the Workforce Investment Act Dislocated Workers program. The New Careers Pathways program, to be administered by the Employment and Training Administration, delivers on the Obama administration's vision to offer one set of services to displaced workers through one unified system.
The budget also creates additional jobs and careers by catalyzing new partnerships between community colleges and employers. The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative includes $1.5 billion in 2015 to support a four-year, $6 billion Community College Job-Driven Training Fund to launch new training programs and apprenticeships that will prepare participants for in-demand jobs and careers. Of each year's funding, $500 million will be set aside for grants to create new apprenticeships and increase participation in existing apprenticeship programs. This four-year investment will support doubling the number of apprenticeships in America over the next five years.
To foster innovation and better performance, the budget includes $60 million for the Workforce Innovation Fund to give states and regions the flexibility to test new workforce development strategies. It provides $80 million for Incentive Grants to reward states that have been successful in training and placing in jobs those with the greatest barriers to employment. The budget also proposes $15 million for grants to states, consortia of states, or regional partnerships to develop employment and training strategies targeted to particular in-demand industry sectors in regional economies.
To reach the nation's long-term unemployed, the 2015 budget proposes mandatory funding for a Job-Driven Training for Youth and the Long-Term Unemployed initiative made up of programs to allow individuals to continue receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits while participating in short-term work placements. It also supports partnerships between businesses, education and training providers to train approximately one million long-term unemployed. Funding for a Summer Jobs Plus program is also included to create summer and year-round employment opportunities for 600,000 disadvantaged youth.
For those who have lost their jobs, the budget invests $158 million in re-employment and eligibility assessments and re-employment services, an evidence-based approach to speed the return to work of UI beneficiaries. The funds will serve those who are most likely to exhaust their UI benefits as well as all returning military service members. In addition, the budget proposal includes needed reforms to the UI program to enhance the system's solvency and financial integrity while maintaining benefits for job seekers. The budget also supports the extension of emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. If not extended, 3.6 million additional people are estimated to lose access to extended UI benefits by the end of 2014, remaining unemployed and looking for work.
The budget includes substantial investments in the department's worker protection agencies to bolster their enforcement of the laws that protect the health, safety, wages, working conditions and retirement security of American workers. The budget includes:
- An increase of more than $41 million for the Wage and Hour Division to ensure workers receive appropriate wages and overtime pay, as well the right to take job-protected leave for family and medical leave purposes.
- Nearly $14 million to combat the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, which deprives them of benefits and protections to which they are legally entitled and disadvantages employers who comply with the law.
- $5 million for the creation of a State Paid Leave Fund to assist workers who need to take time off to care for a child or other family member, with another $100 million proposed as part of the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.
- Substantial investments in worker safety, including $565 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to foster employer compliance with safety and health regulations and inspect hazardous workplaces, and strengthen its protection of whistleblowers against retaliation for reporting unsafe and unscrupulous practices. The budget also includes $377 million for the Mine Safety and Health Administration to help protect workers in one of our nation's most dangerous industries.
- $107 million for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces equal employment opportunity at federal contractors. The budget includes $1.1 million to strengthen efforts to eliminate pay discrimination affecting women who earn significantly less than their male counterparts for comparable work and to secure equal treatment for all workers.
The budget includes two additional important reforms. One initiative, estimated to save $20 billion over the next decade, would encourage companies to fully fund their pension benefits by authorizing the Board of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to adjust premiums and take into account the risks that different retirement plan sponsors pose to their retirees. Another reform would act on longstanding Government Accountability Office and Inspector General recommendations to improve and update the Federal Employees Compensation Act program.
For more information on the president's fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Department of Labor, visit http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/.
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SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor