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Category Archives: News

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

Casey adds backing to $15 minimum wage bill in US Senate

From pennlive.com

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania said Tuesday that he is adding his support to legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, joining the party’s growing chorus at the state and federal level ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The bill Casey is joining is already backed by 30 fellow Democrats. It is written by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and backed by five other Democratic senators who, like the politically independent Sanders, are seeking the party’s nomination to run for president.

Casey acknowledged that winning passage in the Republican-controlled Senate is a tall order, but that it is important to build support for it now if a Democrat is elected president in 2020.

“I would not be a candidate during 2020 running for Senate or Congress not supporting this because I think it’s popular across the board,” Casey said. “Not only do people know the data on wages, they’ve lived these lives of very little wage growth and I think it’s the No. 1 economic challenge that we have.”

Pennsylvania’s other senator, Republican Pat Toomey, has long voted against bills to raise the minimum wage. His office said Tuesday that states are free to make their own decisions on minimum wages and that Toomey does not believe the federal government should impose policies “which destroy existing jobs and prevent the creation of new jobs.”

Read more.

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to offer first-of-its-kind college tuition benefit to Pa. National Guard member families

From pennlive.com

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to break new ground with a new incentive program to entice members of the Pennsylvania National Guard to re-enlist for six years by offering them a tuition assistance plan for their spouses or children.

The Pennsylvania National Guard Military Family Education Program, or Pennsylvania GI Bill of Rights as Wolf refers to it, would provide up to 10 semesters of tuition-free education for the service member’s spouse or family to attend most of Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions.

The amount of assistance paid would be capped at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education base tuition rate, which this year is $3,858 per semester. The grant could be used to pay for an education leading to an industrial certificate up to and including a graduate degree.

Further, the benefit can be used by service member’s spouse or their children up through age 26 immediately while the soldier or airman is serving in the Guard or any time after they leave the service.

Only Minnesota offers a similar educational benefit to its Guard members but that program is limited to the service member’s spouse, Wolf said in outlining the program to a room filled with soldiers and airmen and surrounded by military equipment at Fort Indiantown Gap on Wednesday.

Senator Hughes proposes legislation to reduce poverty in PA

Senator Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia / Montgomery) today announced plans to introduce a pair of bills designed to assist lawmakers in reducing the commonwealth’s poverty and deep poverty rates. These proposals, SB360 and SB361 will take a data-driven approach to public policy to ensure that lawmakers are fully informed of the potential impacts of legislation on people living in poverty before they vote.

Data from TalkPoverty.org reveals that in 2017 over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians, about 12.5% of the commonwealth’s total population were below the federal poverty line. This ranks Pennsylvania 23rd nationally. In addition, over 700,000 Pennsylvanians, including more than 206,000 children, live in deep poverty; meaning they have household incomes of less than 50% of the federal poverty line, or approximately $12,430 annually. In Philadelphia, the poverty rate is 26% with approximately 200,000 people living in deep poverty.

“SB360 and SB361 will inject research and data into policymaking, so we can begin to drastically reduce and eliminate poverty and deep poverty in the commonwealth,” Sen. Hughes said. “Poverty is real and its impact cuts across the entire commonwealth. It does not discriminate based on race or gender or urban versus rural Pennsylvanians. While the faces and locations of poverty may be different, the impacts are the same. It’s long past time we place the issue of poverty at the forefront of our decision making and do a better job of creating policy that positively impacts our most vulnerable populations.”

SB360, the Intergenerational Poverty Act, calls for a research-based initiative that examines generational poverty through the Department of Human […]

As work for welfare battle continues, Wolf admin will put a new spin on old jobs programs

From Pennsylvania Capital-Star

As legislative Republicans again push to require work for welfare benefits, the Wolf administration is redesigning ineffective job training for the state’s poorest parents.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration are strongly opposed to adding work requirements for programs like Medicaid, fearing that older, sicker people could lose their health care. The governor has used his veto power to reject General Assembly-approved work requirements on two occasions.

But under federal law, Wolf’s Human Services department must run a work program for parents who get cash assistance.

The problem? It’s not working.

Needy families, big barriers

Advocates for work requirements scored a major victory in the 1990s, when Congress and President Bill Clinton created a new cash assistance program for the country’s poorest families: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Funding is given to states as a block grant that can be spent not only on cash assistance, work programs, and childcare — the program’s core functions — but on virtually anything that aligns with a broad goal to end “welfare dependence” and promote marriage.  

Pennsylvania, for example, gives $1 million in TANF funds each year to a controversial nonprofit that manages anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.

Study after study after study has shown that work requirements cause more harm than good. A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that ‘90s welfare reform “led to a significant increase in antisocial behaviors” including fighting and stealing in boys.

At the moment, TANF recipients who don’t meet exemption requirements must do some type of work activity 20 […]

University leaders look to the state to help them achieve their tuition freeze goal

From pennlive.com

The presidents at Penn State, Pitt and Temple are looking to the state to make it possible for them to announce a tuition freeze for their students for next year.

All three leaders said that was their desired goal in arriving at the amount of state funding their schools were requesting for 2019-20.

At Lincoln University, the other state-related institution in Pennsylvania, receiving the money it seeks from the state would enable it to discount the tuition for more in-state students as well as increase its faculty and staff to serve its growing student enrollment.

Combined, these four universities are looking to lawmakers to find a total of nearly $600 million in the state’s general fund budget to support their operations.

All of heads of these state-related institutions shared in their testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday a recognition of the role that tuition plays in the rising levels of loan debt their students are amassing.

But they also made it clear that there is a correlation between Pennsylvania having the nation’s first or second highest average student debtload and the state funding their institutions have received so far this century.

“Right now, the appropriations for Penn State are right about what it was in 2000,” said university President Eric Barron. “I could drop tuition by 15 percent if [state funding] just kept up with inflation over that period of time.”

State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie offers bill aimed at getting schools, employers together on job-readiness

From the Reading Eagle

State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, a Lehigh County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said in a news release last week that he reintroduced legislation he wrote several years ago to help increase awareness among middle and high school students about potential career opportunities in high-demand fields.

Mackenzie said his proposal, House Bill 425, complements Gov. Tom Wolf’s workforce development agenda.

Wolf signed an executive order last week creating a “command center” to coordinate economic and workforce development.

The Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, created with Wolf’s signature, aims to expand collaboration between state government agenies and the private sector to better address the gap between workers’ skills and employers’ needs.

Mackenzie said his bill would permit trade groups, businesses and institutions of higher learning to partner with middle and high schools to introduce students to career opportunities through career expos, job shadowing, internships and other career-education integration initiatives. The Department of Labor and Industry would oversee the programs under an intiative Mackenzie calls CareerBound.

“For decades, America’s youth were told they needed to go to college and get a degree in order to get a good-paying job,” Mackenzie said in a news release last week. “In reality, many great opportunities exist with high salaries that do not require a four-year degree. The difficulty now is to change the cultural perception of such jobs. We are not talking only about plumbers, welders and carpenters anymore — although there is growing earning potential in those fields. We are also talking about careers in the medical and technology […]

Minimum Wage, Possible Economic Downturn Loom Over State Budget

From wesa.fm / Associated Press

Every year after Pennsylvania’s governor makes his budget pitch to the House and Senate, lawmakers hold weeks of budget hearings with state departments and agencies to get a sense of the way money is being spent, and what should change.

They kicked off this week with the Independent Fiscal Office, which is tasked with issuing reports on state finances.

Over the two hours IFO officers sat before the House Appropriations Committee Monday, one subject kept coming up: the minimum wage.

Governor Tom Wolf wants to raise the wage from $7.25 an hour to $12, and then gradually up to $15.  

Fellow Democrats, like House Appropriations Minority Chair Matt Bradford, largely agree.

He called the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum “simply unacceptable,” and a “poverty wage” that is “not commensurate with the dignity that work should come with.”

The majority chair thought the opposite.

“Minimum wage jobs are jobs that you’re only supposed to stay in temporarily, and move on,” Republican Stan Saylor said.

He added, “Minimum wage is not a real job to sustain a family…it is not a place we expect American citizens or Pennsylvania citizens to be sitting at for the rest of their life. And if you are, you’re not being aggressive enough at getting the job training dollars we have out there and moving forward.”

The IFO has estimated that a gradual increase to a $12-an-hour minimum wage would eventually do away with about 30,000 jobs statewide. Director Matthew Knittel said that number would likely be higher if the wage was raised all at once, as Wolf wants […]

STEM, computer science enhancement in Pa. schools gets nearly $10M in grants

From pennlive.com

Continuing the rollout of his groundbreaking PAsmart initiative, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $9.6 million in PAsmart advancing grants to enhance science and technology education in schools statewide. Combined with PAsmart targeted grants announced last month, the Wolf administration has awarded nearly $20 million this year to bolster STEM and computer science (CS) in schools, according to a news release sent out Monday.

“Workers in all types of jobs increasingly need to use computers and technology,” Wolf said. “In order to meet that demand, I launched PAsmart last year to expand science and technology education.

“These grants will help our schools and communities to expand STEM and computer science education. That will strengthen our workforce, so businesses can grow, and workers have good jobs that can support a family.”

Over the next decade, seven in 10 new jobs in Pennsylvania will require workers to use computers and new technologies.

Projects funded by the PAsmart advancing grants include CS/STEM camps and after-school programs; support for diversity and inclusion on esports teams in high-need areas; STEM programming for pre K-2 students and classrooms; and a mobile fabrication lab where students gain hands-on experience in coding and robotics.

Other projects will develop CS/STEM internships, teacher training programs to increase the number of instructors in CS/STEM, and a Pathways to College program for high school students in the state’s rural northern tier region, the release said.

Wolf previously announced a $442,000 grant to the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation to expand its computer science/STEM lending libraries in western Pennsylvania,

“Over […]

PA minimum wage hike proposal loudly challenged during first day of budget hearings

From pennlive.com

Hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf’s $34.1 billion budget plan kicked off Monday with a volley of Republican attacks on the prospect of raising the minimum wage, signaling a tough road ahead for a new proposal the Democrat is backing.

The first House Appropriations Committee budget hearing featured members of the Republican majority repeatedly criticizing the broader impact of a minimum wage increase, including whether it would choke off the supply of entry-level jobs, squeeze small businesses or drive up inflation.

Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, questioned whether higher minimum wage earners would still earn too little to live without public benefits, but then find themselves no longer eligible for the help.

The first testifier, Matthew Knittel, director of the Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office, said his agency is working on an analysis of the latest minimum wage proposal that Wolf supports.

Since 2009, Pennsylvania has remained at the $7.25 federal minimum wage level, one of 21 states to do so, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has batted away Wolf’s proposals to raise it since he took office in 2015.

The latest Wolf-backed proposal would take Pennsylvania’s hourly minimum to $12 this year, putting Pennsylvania in line with the highest state minimum wages. Annual 50-cent increases would bring it to $15 an hour in 2025, lifting Pennsylvania into a group of 17 other states that have scheduled annual adjustments written into law.

Lawmakers reach deal on budget to avoid another government shutdown

From pennlive.com

Congressional negotiators reached agreement to prevent a government shutdown and finance construction of new barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, overcoming a late-stage hang-up over immigration enforcement issues that had threatened to scuttle the talks.

Republicans were desperate to avoid another bruising shutdown. They tentatively agreed Monday night to far less money for President Donald Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7 billion wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4 billion, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

“With the government being shut down, the specter of another shutdown this close, what brought us back together I thought tonight was we didn’t want that to happen” again, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Details won’t be officially released until Tuesday, but the pact came in time to alleviate any threat of a second partial government shutdown this weekend. Aides revealed the details under condition of anonymity because the agreement is tentative.

PA Workforce Development Association