Federal Spending Deal Could Swap Youth Employment Funds for Disaster Assistance

House appropriators want to supply financial assistance for people who are out of work in the many areas of America affected by natural disasters this year. Chief among them, of course: parts of Texas and Florida, and all of Puerto Rico.

But they don’t want to pay for it with supplemental money. Instead, the plan is apparently to permit 100 percent transfer authority of the youth employment training funds in those areas, meaning those areas could use their youth allotment to help out-of-work adults.

The funding in question comes to regional workforce boards through the Workforce Investment Opportunities Act (WIOA), one of the largest job training accounts at the Department of Labor.

Youth employment training advocates are pushing House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) to protect the WIOA youth program.

“Our organizations share your concern about workers who were left unemployed as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria this year,” said a letter signed by national groups including YouthBuild USA,¬†National Youth Employment Coalition, and the Center for Law and Social Policy.¬†“However, we strongly discourage any new provisions that allow funding to be transferred from the WIOA youth program to serve other populations.”

WIOA’s youth funding is targeted at 16- to 24-year-olds, especially those who have left school or have lived in foster care. In fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, Congress appropriated about $875 million for WIOA youth training.

President Trump proposed cutting that down to $608 million in this fiscal year. The administration has also voiced support for increased attention to apprenticeship programs, a more intense career preparation model that many WIOA clients would not qualify for. The federal apprenticeship program is currently funded at $90 million.

A recent gold standard evaluation of WIOA’s similar predecessor, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), found that WIA participants did not increase earnings or employment versus a control group. But the youth program was not part of the evaluation; it focused on the adult and dislocated worker services.

According to the letter from youth employment advocates, 94,925 teens and young adults exited WIOA youth programs between April 2015 and March 2016. Of those, 57 percent were placed into a job, and 13.2 percent were placed in an education setting.

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