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Mayors Outraged by Funding Cuts for Laid Off Workers

By Josie Hathway
August 5, 2002

On July 23, the House and the Senate passed the FY 02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill which eliminated $400 million in funding for laid-off workers from the original proposal, which was introduced by the Administration and passed by both the House and the Senate. The elimination of these funds was part of the final negotiations on July 17 between top appropriators and Mitch Daniels, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The next day Conference President Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino issued a statement and sent a letter on behalf of the nations mayors and the nations workers to Congress and the White House to urge them to reverse the shortsighted decision. Menino said, "The nation's mayors are outraged by action taken by top appropriators to cut $400 million in assistance for dislocated workers from the supplemental spending bill. These funds help workers who have lost their jobs find their way back to work or provide them with the additional skills they may need to succeed in a new job. With record layoffs and an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent nationally and as high as 13 percent in some metropolitan areas, it is unconscionable for Congress to balance the budget on the back of America's unemployed workers in their hour of need."

Over the past eighteen months, 1.75 million workers have lost their jobs. Menino said, " This action is a slap in the face to the American worker, many of whom have received pink slips due to the continuing recession and to the well documented corporate misdeeds of the past few months."

"The supplemental funds for dislocated workers were wisely proposed by the President and passed by the Senate and the House to help the rising number of laid-off workers, " said Menino. The President's original supplemental proposal - which the Administration eliminated in the final negotiations - provided $750 million for workforce programs, which included $110 million to restore the FY 01 dislocated worker rescission passed last summer, prior to climbing unemployment and the impact of September 11, and $550 million in National Emergency Grants to retrain laid-off workers. The Senate-passed FY 02 Supplemental bill included $400 million for laid-off workers and the House-passed bill included $300 million for the same purpose.

Mayors across the country are contacting their Congressional delegations over this August recess to inform them about the significant needs of unemployed workers in their cities and urging them to restore this cut in the FY 03 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill and increase funds for workforce training programs under the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), which is scheduled for action when Congress returns in September.

Senators Paul D. Wellstone (MN), Chair of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Employment, Safety and Training Subcommittee and Michael B. Enzi (WY), Ranking Chair of the same Committee which authorizes workforce training programs, have sponsored a "Dear Colleague" letter inviting Senators to sign on to a letter to White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels. The letter, which has broad bi-partisan support, calls for increased funding for workforce investment programs in the FY 03 Budget and expresses disappointment that in the final negotiations with the Administration funding for dislocated workers was eliminated in order to reduce the size of the FY 02 Emergency Supplemental bill.

In a Senate floor statement, Senator Wellstone said, "I do not blame the appropriations conferees because I believe the money was cut at the Administration's insistence. I know that both the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee resisted the Administration's efforts. But I urge colleagues to be aware of what has happened so that when we take up the FY 2003 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, we will be especially careful not to further undermine the WIA programs that are also critical to American workers, businesses and our economic recovery."

For further information on workforce funding or the Senate "Dear Colleague" letter, contact Joan Crigger of the Conference staff at (202) 861-6726.