Last week, Congress agreed upon a $1.8 trillion Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus spending bill, which notably included funding increases for some key workforce and education programs. President Obama signed the bill on December 18, 2015, funding federal government operations through September 30, 2016.
This appropriations package provides a slight increase in funding for WIOA formula state grants, including nearly $39 million in funding above current funding levels for WIOA Adult, roughly $42 million above current funding for WIOA Youth and a modest increase ($5 million) for formula funding for Dislocated Worker grants.
The bill also includes $90 million in new funding for apprenticeship programs. The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) has recently prioritized apprenticeships as a key strategy for developing a skilled pipeline of workers, especially in the manufacturing industry. This additional funding will likely be used to expand activities under the National Apprenticeship Act, or will be used for competitive grant programs and other arrangements with States.
Funding for programs supporting ex-offenders was increased by $6 million over enacted FY 2015 levels.
Career and Technical Education state grants were level-funded at $1.12 billion, while the Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants received a slight increase of $13 million.
Overall, we believe this is encouraging news for workforce development. Most non-defense discretionary programs (including workforce development and education programs) have operated in volatile environment over the past few years in regards to the federal appropriations process. In contrast to the lengthy budget impasses and declining funding that has become the norm, this spending bill provides at least a few months of funding stability and a welcome, if not a modest, increase in funding levels.
Below is a chart (via National Skills Coalition) of FY16 Omnibus funding levels for key workforce development and education programs.