Mar 14 2012

Shelby Calls for Rigorous Assessment of Labor Programs

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) today submitted for the record the following statement at a Subcommittee hearing on the Department of Labor Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“Madam Secretary, our nation continues to face an unemployment rate over 8 percent, the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression. 

“Moreover, the official unemployment rate of 8.3 percent does not adequately illustrate the current employment turmoil.  The official rate excludes discouraged workers – those who want to work, but have not searched for a job in the last month and those working part-time but who would prefer a full-time job. 

“If these groups were counted, the real unemployment rate would be 14.9 percent. 

“As more and more Americans are unemployed or underemployed, they are looking towards the Department of Labor to provide job training and employment placement.  We need to ensure that the Department is using its funds effectively and efficiently and that Americans are receiving the training they need to re-enter the labor force.

“The Department of Labor’s Fiscal Year 2013 request is for $12 billion.  The Department claims that the 2013 request reduces spending by $1.2 billion. This is misleading. 

“With the transfer of the Community Service Employment for Older Americans program to another agency and the decrease in the Unemployment Insurance workload, the Department’s request is not a decrease of $1.2 billion, but less than half that amount. 

“In this difficult economic environment, limited funding should be targeted to programs that are most effective.  I have repeatedly expressed concern about the Job Corps program.  While Job Corps has a noble goal and a difficult challenge, it is an expensive program per enrollee, it has a number of historically low-performing centers in the system, and there are concerns that the program’s outcomes may not justify the program’s costs.

“I appreciate you taking my concerns into consideration and proposing a Fiscal Year 2013 budget that streamlines the program and strengthens its accountability. 

“However, I do remain concerned that other job training programs have not received the rigorous evaluations necessary to determine whether their costs are justified by their outcomes.  Many of the Workforce Investment Act programs have not been evaluated since 2005, and we do not have current data to assess whether they are working. 

“In this time of record unemployment, I believe the Department of Labor should target worker training programs to ensure unemployed Americans can return to work.  Unfortunately, there are several unnecessary initiatives that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the Workforce Innovation Fund and the One-Stop Rebranding proposal, that will not train a single worker.

“The budget submission for the Workforce Innovation Fund requests $125 million this year while the Fund has $175 million in the bank.  I think everyone would agree that we should not add a third year of funding to a program that has not awarded a single grant and has unknown results. 

“In addition, the One-Stop Rebranding initiative allocates $50 million for a publicity campaign.  How will either of these proposals help Americans return to work?

“In difficult budgetary times, we need to make tough choices and prioritize spending.  I look forward to working with the Chairman and the Department to target funding that puts Americans back to work.”