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Category Archives: News

Workforce development news from Pennsylvania and across the U.S.

Senate approves $32.7 billion budget with no tax hikes, sending it to Gov. Tom Wolf

The 2018-19 state budget is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf for enactment.

The Pennsylvania Senate on Friday voted 47-2 to pass the $32.7 billion spending plan, which increases spending over this year’s budget by $560 million or 1.7 percent. The budget calls for no increases in state taxes or fees.

Wolf has indicated his intention to sign the budget.

The House of Representatives approved the proposed spending plan on Wednesday by a 188-10 vote.

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Workers impacted by tornado to receive aid from state

From citizensvoice.com

The tornado that struck the Wilkes-Barre Twp. shopping area late Wednesday left hundreds of people out of work but they are receiving some assistance.The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has activated its “Rapid Response Coordination Services” to assist the affected workers and businesses, said Gov. Tom Wolf.

Wolf announced in a news release Monday that a team of specialists is meeting with the employers and impacted workers to provide information about and access to services, including unemployment insurance, health and pension benefits, financial credit counseling, training programs, job search activities, education services and social service programs.

“The unsettling sight of damaged businesses is a reminder of the workers’ lives this affects and the families their paychecks support,” said Wolf, who visited Wilkes-Barre Twp. on Thursday. “Within hours after the storm hit, we began preparing to help the workers and employers get back on their feet.”

A layoff or closure typically triggers rapid response activities but they also can be activated in response to job or business loss from natural disasters.

“Whenever natural disasters create sudden changes in employment, it is a difficult and uncertain time for employees and their families,” Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said in a statement. “Labor & Industry stands ready to help mitigate the hardships and stress displaced workers go through when dealing with an unanticipated loss of income, whether that be from a natural disaster or a mass layoff event.”

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, the rapid response coordinator contacts the company to schedule a meeting […]

Trump to Propose Government Reorganization, Targeting Safety Net Programs

By Glenn Thrush and Erica L. Green

New York Times

June 20, 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to propose a reorganization of the federal government as early as Thursday that includes a possible merger of the Education and Labor Departments, coupled with a reshuffling of other domestic agencies to make them easier to cut or revamp, according to administration officials briefed on the proposal.

The plan, which will most likely face significant opposition in Congress from Democrats and some Republicans, includes relocating many social safety net programs into a new megadepartment, which would replace the Department of Health and Human Services and possibly include the word “welfare” in its title.

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Employment First Law for people with disabilities becomes law

On June 19, Governor Tom Wolf signed HB1641, codifying the Employment First policy that the governor established by executive order in March 2016 to increase competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“My executive order two years ago focused Pennsylvania on being a model state that is hospitable to workers with disabilities and I’m proud to sign this bill adding the weight of law,” said Governor Wolf. “This is a win-win for Pennsylvania. Our employers need smart and skilled workers and increasing employment opportunities ensures people with disabilities can achieve greater independence and inclusion in our communities.”

HB1641, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Cutler, creates the Employment First Act requiring state, county, and other entities receiving public funding to first consider competitive integrated employment as the preferred outcome of publicly funded education, training, employment, and related services, and long-term services and support for individuals with a disability who are eligible to work under state law.

The statue also creates the Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities and the Employment First Oversight Commission. The Governor’s Cabinet for People with Disabilities will review existing regulations and policies to recommend changes to laws, regulations, policies, and procedures that ensure implementation of Employment First. The Employment First Oversight Commission will establish measurable goals and objectives to guide agencies and report annual progress.

Following the governor’s Executive Order 2016-03, entitled Establishing ‘Employment First’ Policy and Increasing Competitive-Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability, the Departments of Labor and Industry, Human Services, and Education have been working to obtain stakeholder and business input to meet […]

PA Legislature appears ready to fast-track state budget with more education funding

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

What a difference an election year makes.

For the first time since Gov. Tom Wolf took office, his administration and the Republican-controlled Legislature appear to have hammered out a deal on the state budget, days in advance of the June 30 deadline to have a spending plan in place for the new fiscal year.

The agreement calls for a $32.7 billion budget that does not raise any new taxes or fees, and includes $100 million more for public schools, $25 million more for early childhood education and $15 million for special education. State-related universities, including Temple and the University of Pittsburgh, will receive a combined boost of nearly $17 million. Separately, legislators are expected to also approve an additional $60 million for school safety projects.

Absent any eleventh-hour kinks, the budget could be approved by week’s end, a full week before the deadline — a budget milestone. If that were to happen, it would be the earliest a budget has been passed into law in at least 15 years.

Since Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, took office in 2015, he and GOP leaders have waged fierce battles over the state’s finances, leading to chronically late budgets. Publicly, many in the Capitol attribute the swift pace this year to a rosier revenue picture. Privately, others note that it is an election year, and elected officials are motivated to wrap up their work so they can campaign.

This year, Mr. Wolf, the entire House of Representatives and half the members of the Senate are facing elections.

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In Pennsylvania, it’s budgeting the election-year way. But the economy helped.

From pennlive.com

And why not?

This is 2018 after all.

In a few short months, your television and computer screens will be flooded with advertisements urging a vote for this gubernatorial candidate, that senator or this state lawmaker.

That’s going to be a big, partisan fight all on its own.

So there seemed to be a shared interest at the Capitol this spring in universal disarmament when it came to the state budget, and you could see evidence of that throughout the $32.7 billion general appropriations bill unveiled Tuesday.

The bill is the agreed-to product of quiet negotiations between the Wolf Administration, Senate and House leaders.

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Election could be incentive for on-time Pennsylvania budget

From readingeagle.com

Pennsylvania lawmakers have an incentive to finalize the state budget by the June 30 deadline: It’s an election year.

If they meet the deadline, it would be the first on-time budget under Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who, like most lawmakers, is running for re-election in November.

There are indications this budget season will be less contentious than in previous years.

“It’s the first time in 10 years we are not wrestling with a deficit coming into budget discussions,” said Sen. Bob Mensch, a Montgomery County Republican whose district includes parts of northern and eastern Berks County. “We are feeling more confident. We know economic growth is happening.”

Although, Mensch noted, Pennsylvania’s unemployment is still slightly higher than the national average.

All seats in the House and half in the Senate will be on the ballot in November. With the governor also on the ballot, it is a climate that fosters compromise.

“We keep hearing optimism; I hope it is based in reality, not wishful thinking,” said Sen. David G. Argall, a Schuylkill County Republican whose district includes much of northern and western Berks.

There will be some battles. Wolf still wants the severance tax on gas drilling companies and an increase of the minimum wage.

“A lot of us have voted for similar bills in the past,” Argall said. “Anything is possible.”

School safety funding

In response to a public outcry to prevent deadly school shootings, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are embracing ideas to improve school safety.

“I fully expect to see funding there.” Argall said. “Something flexible. Different schools have different needs.”

Bill Patton, spokesman […]

As public benefits work requirements bills advance in PA Legislature, committee continues to dig into details

By Dave Lemery | Watchdog.org

The past week was an important one for those who support the addition of work requirements for public benefits in Pennsylvania. Two bills that would do just that were approved by a pair of Senate committees, while another group of senators continued their exploration of what has worked and what hasn’t on the topic over the course of the past 20 years.

House Bill 2138, by Rep. Matthew Dowling, R-Uniontown, and House Bill 1659, by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill Haven, each gained approval in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week, and then followed that up with another thumbs up from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Dowling’s bill seeks to require that non-disabled, non-elderly recipients of Medicaid benefits in the state must work 20 hours a week or complete job-training related activities each month. Tobash’s bill is similar, but applies to the SNAP program, also known as food stamps.

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Pa. state budget review – World Cup edition: Are these negotiations a “friendly?” We’ll soon find out

It’s never truly easy to pull together a state budget, but what can make it seem a little easier is when people don’t seem to care too much about fighting over it.

That seems to be where we are this year in Pennsylvania.

For the second straight year, Gov. Tom Wolf – who is seeking re-election to a second four-year term – has kept fire-starters like income or sales tax increases off the table from the start.

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PA unemployment continues decline in May, falling to 4.5 percent.

BENJAMIN MIKEK
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 

JUN 15, 2018

 

11:57 AM

 

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in May, adding to the steady decline in the rate even as people continue to drop out of the workforce.

May’s rate, reported by the state Department of Labor and Industry, decreased two-tenths of a percentage point from the 4.7 percent rate reported in April.

Over the last 12 months, unemployment in Pennsylvania has fallen a total of four-tenths of one percent, from 4.9 percent in May 2017.

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PA Workforce Development Association