Q:I am an instructor for the Wyoming Electrical JATC. How can the new budget help our program train the best and brightest electricians in this greenest of green industries?
I train in a state where renewable energy should be a staple of our local economy. We have high average winds and a high elevation to produce more effective solar power that is not as obstructed by clouds and atmosphere.
We have the only union electrical apprenticeship in the state and could definitely use your help. I look forward to your response, and thank you in advance for whatever assistance that you may provide.
President Obama's FY 2010 budget request proposes the Green Jobs Innovation Fund to help workers receive job training in green industry sectors and occupations, partly to support Enhanced Green Apprenticeship Programs. Competitive grants could be used to expand and recognize green preapprenticeship programs and link these programs to registered apprenticeships, community colleges, and other training providers.
The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is also exploring options to expand opportunities for individuals to access registered apprenticeship programs, particularly those related to emerging green jobs. Additionally, ETA is leveraging existing program resources, such as the Workforce Investment Act, to fund preapprenticeship efforts, as well as new investments made with the Recovery Act funds targeted at green jobs.
Please note that under the Recovery Act, the department has recently published a comprehensive set of solicitations for grant awards
which will, among other policy goals, encourage greater partnerships with and promotion of registered apprenticeship programs. In our Recovery Act Policy Guidance
, we are encouraging the publicly funded workforce system to actively reach out to registered apprenticeship programs, including labor management organizations.
Finally, in the past year, ETA has provided more than $10 million in discretionary resources to support and promote registered apprenticeship. ETA made $6.5 million available to national organizations to incorporate elements of the revised regulatory framework governing the National Apprenticeship System. ETA also made $2.5 million available to state apprenticeship agencies to assist in their effort to modernize their apprenticeship systems. Technical assistance resources were provided for a series of action clinics around the country to promote greater collaboration with registered apprenticeship.
Q:Do you think there might be an ability to save money by cutting ARRA and utilizing the Medicare program for unemployed health-care assistance?
Health-care reform is a high priority for President Obama, and all options for ensuring that unemployed workers have access to health care should be considered. You can learn more about the president's commitment to health-care reform by visiting www.HealthReform.gov.
Initial steps in the effort to protect health coverage for unemployed Americans are the premium reductions and additional election options for health benefits, as provided by the Recovery Act under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which allows Americans an affordable alternative to continuing medical coverage when affected by job loss. The department supports this change and provides information to help displaced workers learn more about these benefits on its Health Plans and Benefits topic page on COBRA
. This change to COBRA benefits helps individuals that meet certain eligibility requirements to pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums, and the remaining 65 percent is reimbursed to the coverage provider through a tax credit.
Questions about the possibility of expanding Medicare would best be answered by the
Department of Health and Human Services - Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS)
Q:What DOL is doing for immigrants?
The Department of Labor’s commitment to assisting new immigrants to succeed in the American economy is built into its programs, from the Employment and Training Administration’s effort to provide employment services to new immigrants to DOL’s worker-protection agency efforts to ensure that new immigrants are afforded full protection under employment laws in languages they understand. Specific initiatives are listed in DOL Program Initiatives for Immigrants
Q:Thank you for having this discussion. Will your administration address questions, such as employee misclassification and bogus apprenticeship programs? Thank you again.
The department has recently issued revised apprenticeship regulations that include a new section on performance standards to increase program quality and enhance accountability in the National Apprenticeship System
. The apprenticeship regulations introduce apprentice completion rates as a critical factor in evaluation of program quality, and emphasize the existing process of using quality assurance assessments and Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Review to evaluate program performance. Using these factors in reviewing apprenticeship programs provides the department and our partners in state apprenticeship agencies with information useful to support technical-assistance efforts to improve apprenticeship program performance.
The issue of misclassification of workers could potentially impact many programs that the Labor Department administers. For example, if an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, he is not reported as an employee on the employer's contribution and wage reports, which deprives the state's unemployment trust fund of taxes that should have been paid into it. Additionally, the misclassified worker can be harmed if he files a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, as he will not initially show as an insured worker, thereby delaying the processing of the claim until the misclassification issue has been resolved.
The Employment Standards Administration
is responsible for administering laws related to working conditions and wages. Improving the classification of workers is critical to their mission. In an effort to assist workers and employers with this issue and improve the programs that are affected when misclassification occurs, the department is reexamining the recommendations provided in a report prepared by the U.S. Government Accountability Office titled Employee Misclassification: Improved Outreach Could Help Ensure Proper Worker Classification. The report is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-859T
Q:I saw the creation of the Career Pathway Program in the budget, which replaces the Community Based Job Training Grant program. Will the eligible entities for the Career Pathway program be similar to the Community Based Job Training program?
A:The Career Pathways Program will provide grants to community colleges or a consortia of community colleges that are developing or expanding career pathway programs in partnership with education and training providers, employers, and the workforce investment system.
Q:Given California has the third highest unemployment extension rate in the nation, what are the 2010 plans for federal unemployment extensions?
A:The current federal extension runs through the end of 2009. The department is closely monitoring the economic situation in all states, including California, and will continue to study economic data closely to determine if further action is required.
Q:Will DOL be capturing reportable information from states/local governments and federal agencies regarding the creation of new jobs tied to the Recovery Act funding? Will DOL be reporting these details by geographic region? By category of "new" job: wages/ manufacturing/etc.? Thanks for your time.
A:Per instructions issued by the Office of Management and Budget on June 22, the Department of Labor will capture reportable information on the use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and on outcomes for the resources appropriated for Department of Labor programs. DOL will be collecting information from states on jobs directly created or retained by project and activity or contract for DOL activities. This information will include a description of the types of jobs created or retained. Information will be provided to Recovery.gov for government-wide reporting.
Q:What parts of the proposed budget will be allocated through competitive grants directly to service providers?
A:The vast majority of funds appropriated to the Department of Labor and allocated to ETA are distributed by statutory formula to the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and other outlying areas. Once received, most of these funds are allocated by formula to local workforce investment areas within the states. Any available discretionary resources are used to support competitive grant opportunities. For example, $135 million will be used for the Career Pathways Innovation Funds to focus on career pathway programs at community colleges.
Q:Will the Department of Labor consider reinvesting in the Welfare to Work Program? This was an extremely successful program in our community and involved real collaboration with both community-based and faith-based organizations with the local workforce boards.
A:At this time, there is no congressional authorization for the Welfare to Work Program. However, the department is committed to helping people at all economic levels access opportunities to become prepared for good jobs that further U.S. competitiveness in the global economy. We agree that collaboration between faith- and community-based organizations and local workforce boards is important in reaching this goal.
In addition to existing job-training programs authorized under the Workforce Investment Act, the 2010 budget includes several programs that target opportunities for low-income individuals, including those who receive public assistance. For example, the department will fund demonstration projects to test and evaluate "transitional job programs," which combine short-term subsidized or supported employment with individualized case-management services to help individuals with significant barriers to employment obtain the skills needed to secure unsubsidized jobs. Job-seeker populations targeted for this program include noncustodial parents, including young parents. In addition, a new Career Pathways Innovation Fund will enable community colleges to provide training programs where individuals of varying skill levels pursue clear sequences of coursework and credentials, each leading to a better job in a high-demand and emerging industry, such as health care or law enforcement. An additional Green Career Pathways competitive grants program will fund career pathways programs specifically in the "green" sectors, such as energy efficiency and clean energy. This will target under-skilled youth and adults, including those in low-income communities or those who have limited proficiency with English.
Q:How can the government make the programs and grants intended to help the unemployed, homeless population become more accessible to the poor? The office rarely responds to e-mail or telephone calls. The bureaucratic paperwork is a hindrance and very discouraging. Huge amounts of paperwork are also hindering nonprofit groups who would otherwise help the increasing populations of poor and homeless.
As a result of the Recovery Act, the Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently partnered to support public housing recipients with easier access to training and employment opportunities. One-Stop Career Centers and public housing agencies will increase communication and activity related to sharing announcements on employment vacancies and corresponding training, and developing work supports to ensure that barriers are addressed and public housing recipients attain and retain employment.
Additionally, the department's FY 2010 budget request for the Veteran's Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) supports efforts to assist the homeless. In VETS, a total of $35.33 million is requested for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), an increase of $9 million from FY 2009. VETS' request for HVRP would provide employment and training services to more than 21,000 homeless veterans.
ETA's employment and training programs have an important role in combating homelessness by encouraging access to employment-focused services and by providing workforce assistance to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. As part of the department's FY 2010 budget request, ETA is committed to its effort to promote and support innovative service-delivery strategies for targeted adult populations, including low-income and low-skill workers, public-assistance recipients, transitioning veterans, older workers, and other targeted populations.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) authorizes ETA's employment and training programs across three separate funding streams: youth, adult, and dislocated workers. WIA provides universal access to employment-focused assistance for all individuals in need of help, including hard-to-serve populations, such as the homeless. Other ETA initiatives also address the need of targeted populations, including the homeless, such as YouthBuild
, the Prisoner Reentry Initiative
, the Senior Community Service Employment Program
, the National Farmworker Jobs Program
and Indians and Native American Program
ETA also collaborates with other federal agencies and offices within the department to address the employment and social-service needs of individuals with special and coexisting needs, such as veterans, individuals with disabilities, and the homeless. A report, Ending Chronic Homelessness through Employment and Housing: A Program and Policy Handbook for Successfully Linking Supportive Housing and Employment Services for Chronically Homeless Adults, contains the lessons learned and best practices from five pioneering communities that have pursued housing and employment strategies to improve the lives of people who were chronically homeless. This information is available at the Chronically Homelessness Employment Technical Assistance Center
Q:Will there be money for Hispanic Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities for technical-assistance programs to help our colleges develop education and training programs?
ETA has a recent history of partnering with Hispanic Serving Institutions (HIS) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through previous grant opportunities. ETA encourages all Minority Institutions (MI) that provide postsecondary education and training to consider the opportunity to continue this collaboration by investigating the recent grant opportunities that have been posted to the ETA Web site
. ETA is also working in collaboration with U.S. Department of Education officials and will use their expertise to connect with MIs in future projects.
The U.S. Department of Education's FY 2010 budget summary specifically requests funding associated with HSIs and HBCUs. In its FY 2010 budget summary, information is available on the requested budget to provide competitive grants to enhance HSIs or those postsecondary schools that enroll and serve a large number of these students. See the Department of Education’s FY 2010 budget
Q:I see that the Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) program is available both for FY 2009 and FY 2010. I wonder if this program will morph from a competitive grant program to be mainstream in future budget years? Is DOL still trying to assess the effectiveness of REA treatments, or has this been proven? How many more years of data will it take to determine this? Thank you, and I appreciate the excitement you bring to DOL!
A:It is too early to determine how REAs will be treated in future budget cycles. However, more research about the REA initiative is planned. Any recommendations about making the REA initiative permanent would depend on the research findings and available funding. Additional research is planned to determine the effectiveness of the REA initiative, and it is expected to be available in summer 2011.
Q:For new discretionary grant programs, how will eligibility be determined for persons served? Income? Barriers?
A:The Secretary of Labor will have discretion in framing the specific parameters related to target populations to be served and related eligibility requirements. Expectations for eligibility of individuals to be served will be identified specifically in the solicitation for applications.
Q:Does DOL have plans to incorporate social media into programs and services or fund grantees for that?
As part of the effort to get workforce information into the hands of more Americans, the department posts messages on its Twitter account at http://twitter.com/usdol
. Links to press releases and other information are often included in these posts. ETA has a knowledge sharing and e-learning platform
that it uses for the delivery of technical assistance to state and local grantees. The platform is interactive and uses blended learning strategies of Webinars (online learning events) and other social media, such as expert blogs, wikis, podcasts, and online discussions. ETA has also embraced the development of "communities of practice" as a mechanism to promote peer-to-peer learning and to change/create new solutions or services in the workforce and, ultimately, to enable citizen participation in such online focus groups as part of the open-government commitment.
Q:Based on the four stated goals of Secretary Solis (page 1 of budget), there appears to be less emphasis on meeting the needs of the employer than in the past. Comments?
A:I am sensitive to the fact that what the Department of Labor does has an immediate impact on business. My priority is to create safe and healthy workplaces that reduce fatalities and injuries, and at the same time increase worker productivity. I know that this is a priority for employers, too.
The manufacturing sector contributes to American productivity growth at higher rates than other sectors in our economy. A stronger manufacturing sector can help with our administration goals of promoting a strong manufacturing base; creating good paying, middle-class jobs; helping auto companies; and stabilizing our trade imbalance. That is why we are thinking about a broad range of possibilities for investments in manufacturing, including light- and high-speed rail, buses, smart grid, and batteries, along with upstream, relevant supply chains and downstream, commercialization initiatives. I want to assure all business owners that we will continue to have an open-door policy.
Q:As you may be aware, nearly 100,000 California health-care workers have petitioned the NLRB to schedule elections to vote on whether they can leave SEIU a corrupt labor union and form their own organization. With these workers' and their families' well-being hanging in the balance, what has been the delay in these elections being scheduled? What can you do to ensure that the NLRB is doing its job and is accountable to the citizenry, especially in this instance?
A:The National Labor Relations Board is not within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Q:Has DOL considered reemploying retired investigators at full grade and allowing them to continue to draw their retirement pay for two years with the extra funds? This is permissible through OPM. It takes most investigators a full two years just to be qualified to make fully independent quality investigations.
A:DOL agencies have considered a broad range of personnel flexibilities to meet the challenges we face. Though we are directing our hiring efforts at promoting long-term staffing solutions and diversity, the department is exploring all options in addressing its current staffing needs.
We are certainly considering and pursuing all avenues and options available to us under OPM regulations. Thank you for suggesting this additional option of using experienced retirees to fill our current hiring needs.
Q:1) When you say the department is hiring 130 new OSHA officers, do you mean OSHA inspectors, or does that include other different staff? If so, what is the breakdown of inspectors versus other officers, and what is the role of those other officers? Just want to clarify that.
A:The department has requested 130 additional OSHA compliance safety and health officers, for example, inspectors, in FY 2010. Additionally, a total of 25 positions for whistle-blower investigators have also been requested in the FY 2010 budget. These are all frontline positions in the field that will make inspections and investigations in the workplace.
Q:2) How will OSHA structure its $5 million department-wide program evaluation? Will the agency bring in outside consultants to evaluate programs or will it conduct self-audits? Who at the agency will be in charge of this program, and how soon will it be implemented?
A:The program evaluation funding you refer to is not specific for OSHA programs, but it is available for evaluation of any DOL program. While OSHA programs could be one use, the specific evaluations these funds will be used for has not been determined.
Q:The Chemical Safety Board has slowly begun to rollout a short series of online videos in order to reach the workers they serve. They might not be the best, or haven't been communicated properly, but it's a start.
Does the DOL and OSHA plan similar measures, and how can you ensure your outreach to the public is both effective and serving their needs? For example, will people's views involved in OSHA investigations be checked to make sure they understood everything and know why the end result was such a result?
A:Following OSHA inspections, significant events discovered during the course of an investigation are communicated to the regulated community through a variety of mechanisms. Some of these include the development and distribution of materials such as safety and health information bulletins; guidance documents; electronic e-tools; contacts with professional and trade associations; letters to affected industries; settlement agreements, where we settle at a corporate level; and news releases.
Q:Is there an increase in funding included in the budget for OSHA whistle-blower investigators?
A:Yes. The FY 2010 budget request includes funding to support an additional 25 whistle-blower investigators.
Q:Will the Deptartment of Labor add compliance officers to our OSHA branch, and how will we address the lack of compliance from general industry and worker safety and health rights?
A:The Department of Labor's request for OSHA includes 130 additional compliance officers and 25 additional whistle-blower investigators. These positions will be deployed in OSHA offices throughout the United States. This increase in OSHA's inspector and investigator workforce will help reinforce the agency's efforts to ensure safety and health in the workplace, as well as the protection of worker rights under the OSH Act.
The additional compliance staff will allow OSHA to direct inspection resources to establishments with high fatality rates and to establishments with high injury and illness rates. Similarly, additional whistle-blower staff will enable the agency to conduct more complaint investigations and lower the time required to complete an investigation.
Q:Are the cooperative programs, such as VPP, taking any cuts in funding, or has the funding increased? What is your commitment to these programs? Thanks so much glad you are the new Secretary!
A: I appreciate your kind words and intend to live up to your expectations that OSHA will make a difference in making the American workplace a safe and healthy environment. We have not proposed funding reductions in OSHA's cooperative programs in FY 2010. We are, however, reassessing the role these programs play in OSHA's overall effort.
Congress has directed the agency to evaluate its cooperative programs, including the VPP, to ensure that we are having the greatest impact on workplace safety and health. Cooperative programs are envisioned in the OSH Act, and we fully expect to continue utilizing them, along with the promulgation and enforcement of workplace standards, to ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all American workers.
Q:How will the increase in OSHA's staff and budget allow OSHA to better focus attention on the "bad actors" the employers who violate the OSH Act on a severe or widespread basis?
A:The primary impact of the increase is to enhance OSHA's workplace inspection staff by more than 10% and to expand the agency's whistle-blower investigation staff by nearly 33%. These additional staff resources will enable OSHA to devote greater attention to those employers, industries, and work sites with the poorest safety and health track records. The additional compliance staff will allow OSHA to direct more inspection resources to establishments with high fatality rates as well as establishments with high injury and illness rates.
OSHA is implementing a new Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), which will specifically focus on and target those "bad actors" to which you refer. With respect to whistle-blowers, the additional staff will allow the agency to conduct more complaint investigations and lower the time required to complete an investigation. These increases reflect a renewed commitment by the Obama administration to ensure that violations of the OSH Act are exposed and employers are held accountable for providing safe and healthy workplaces for their workers.
Good afternoon, Secretary Solis. I was wondering if I could receive verification about the number of OSHA enforcement officers the Labor Department plans to hire in 2010.
The news release from May 7 says the budget calls for $564 million, an increase of $51 million compared to 2009, and this additional funding will be used for hiring 160 new enforcement staff, many of whom will be bilingual.
The Video Chart Package
has a slide that says the additional money would be used for hiring 130 new enforcement officers.
I was wondering if the term “staff” versus “officer” explains the difference between the two numbers. Does staff encompass other enforcement-related jobs, outside of the officer role?
A:You are correct. The FY 2010 budget for OSHA includes a request for 130 new compliance safety and health officers, 25 additional whistle-blower investigators, and five other staff positions in the enforcement budget activity to provide overall leadership, direction, and support.
Q: I'm interested in any information about any new increases or cuts in Labor Department programs in the budget.
Q: How does the DOL provide assistance to military personnel who are transitioning from military service into civilian employment?
A: Thank you for your interest in employment services for transitioning military personnel. The Department of Labor provides transition assistance through two programs: Transition Assistance Program (TAP) employment workshops and the Recovery and Employment Assistance Lifelines (REALifelines) program. TAP was established to meet the needs of separating service members during their period of transition into civilian life by offering job-search assistance and related services. TAP employment workshops consist of comprehensive workshops at military installations worldwide. Workshop attendees learn about job searches, career decision-making, current occupational and labor-market conditions, resume and cover-letter preparation, and interviewing techniques. Participants also receive an evaluation of their employability relative to the job market, as well as information on the most current veterans’ benefits.
Since 1990, TAP employment workshops have provided job-preparation assistance to more than two million separating and retiring military members. During FY 2008, VETS held 3,525 workshops in the United States for 120,875 participants, and 579 workshops for 9,796 participants at overseas locations.
The Department's FY 2010 budget requests an additional $3.5 million to allow TAP to offer expanded services for spouses and family members of separating and retiring service members, including those with limited English proficiency. DOL developed the REALifelines program in FY 2004 to provide one-on-one employment assistance to wounded and injured service members, as well as veterans, to help them transition into the civilian workforce. Through the end of FY 2008, the program has served more than 7,000 injured and wounded service members.
Q: I am a veteran and I am curious to know if the budget will include an increase for homeless veterans this year?
A: Benedick, first of all, I'd like to thank you for your service to America. All of us at the Department of Labor appreciate the sacrifices you made as a member of the armed forces. I am pleased to reply that the president's budget request for FY 2010 does include an increase for the Department's Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program. This is a $9 million, or 34% increase above 2009. This will allow us to provide employment services to an additional 5,500 homeless veterans. Within that increase, we plan to conduct a demonstration program for homeless women veterans, especially those who suffered sexual trauma in the military.
Q: Why is DOL permitting California to cut job-search services to veterans job seekers? When DOL provides a budget to California to pay for veteran job-seeker services by specialized employment services disabled veterans to serve the veteran job-seeker population, why does DOL stand by and let those service hours be cut by 16 hours a month per veteran's representative, which amounts to hundreds of hours of lost services to veteran job seekers? When stimulus money is issued to California, why does DOL not assure the services to veterans job seekers will be first with that money? These lost hours need to be restored. DOL cannot expect more services to be provided to veterans job seekers with less hours to do the work.
A: Thank you for your question concerning the provision of employment services to veterans in California. The Jobs for Veterans state grants are annual formula grants to the states from the Department of Labor to support specialized employment services to veterans. These funds can only be used for that purpose.
In the case that I believe you are describing, California has mandated a two-day per month furlough for state employees, due to current budget problems. Although DOL closely monitors the provision of employment services to veterans, states have the authority to determine hours of service.
I have been concerned that furloughs and hiring freezes may mean that states might not expend all their available federal funding. In May, I wrote to all the nation's governors strongly encouraging them to exempt federally-funded workforce programs from any hiring freezes or other hiring limits. In the case of funding under the Recovery Act, DOL did emphasize the requirement that veterans receive priority of service in DOL-funded training and employment programs.
Q: Will the new investigators currently being hired by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) be concentrated in particular geographic regions of the country, and will they concentrate on particular industries, such as low-wage industries?
Also, do the 250 new investigators being hired by WHD include positions funded both by FY 2009 appropriations and by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)? If not, how many additional investigators will the ARRA fund?
A: WHD used several factors to distribute the new investigators to the agency's five regions. Those factors included the attrition rates during the last eight years; the percent of directed cases in low-wage industries; the percent of incoming complaints; the percent of valid nonconciliation complaints; the strength of state labor laws and enforcement; the percent of low-wage workers paid in violation of the minimum wage; and the percent of low-wage workers paid in violation of the overtime requirements. While new investigators are being trained, they will concentrate primarily on Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage, overtime, and child- labor violations in industries with high violation rates.
In addition to new investigators hired as a result of the FY 2009 appropriations, the current hiring effort includes an additional 100 investigators to ensure that contractors on stimulus projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) are in compliance with the applicable laws.
Q: Do you know how the additional wage-hour investigators will be allocated around the regions? Which wage-hour programs will see the greatest increase in emphasis (FLSA, FMLA, Davis-Bacon, or SCA)?
A: WHD used several factors to distribute the new investigators to the agency's five regions. Those factors included the attrition rates during the last eight years; the percent of directed cases in low-wage industries; the percent of incoming complaints; the percent of valid nonconciliation complaints; the strength of state labor laws and enforcement; the percent of low-wage workers paid in violation of the minimum wage; and the percent of low-wage workers paid in violation of the overtime requirements. While new investigators are being trained, they will concentrate primarily on Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage, overtime, and child- labor violations in industries with high violation rates. This will allow senior investigators to focus on compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act, the Service Contract Act, and other more complex investigations.
Q: I was laid off from work after 35 years on the job in November 2008. I had an individual plan through Blue Cross that charged me $51.64 each week. My wife has an individual plan through her work that charges her $50.44 each week. Together we paid a total of $408.32 per month.
After I was laid off, I went on COBRA coverage, and my rate went up to $90.10. Our monthly rate went up to $562.16 per month.
I could have gone on my wife's plan as an employee/spouse for $927.68 per month, which would have been an additional $519.36 while we were both working. Presently, we're paying an additional $153.84, with me on COBRA and my wife on her individual plan.
It seems I'm not eligible for Cobra Premium Reduction Provisions under ARRA because I could have gone on my wife's plan for $927.68 per month.
My unemployment benefits are running out. I could use some help with these COBRA payments. Why am I being penalized for not signing on to my wife's expensive employee/spouse plan? It seems like I'm not eligible for COBRA reductions because I could have gone on an asinine plan that no one in their right mind would have taken.
A: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides for premium reductions and additional election opportunities for health benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, commonly called COBRA. Eligible individuals pay only 35 percent of their COBRA premiums for up to nine months.
Individuals who are eligible to continue their coverage under COBRA, and certain state continuation laws as a result of the employee's involuntary termination of employment that occurred on or after September 1, 2008, are eligible for the 65% premium reduction. The reduction in premiums begins March 1, 2009 (for most plans), and lasts for up to nine months. However, the premium reduction will end sooner if the individual becomes eligible for other group health coverage or Medicare, or when the maximum COBRA period ends, if sooner. Because you are eligible for coverage under your wife's health-benefits plan, by law, you are not eligible for the premium reduction under ARRA.
Please refer to the following link for additional information about COBRA and the COBRA premium reduction. You may wish to subscribe to the Web site to receive updated information as it becomes available: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/COBRA.html.
Q: My question is this. I heard a report that the mandatory retirement policy (401(k)) program that was in the 2010 budget, and applicable to small employers, was removed at the last minute from the budget and withdrawn. Is that correct and, if so, why?
A: The administration's 2010 budget proposal would require all but the smallest employers to offer a retirement savings arrangement. Those not offering 401(k) or other pension arrangements would be required to offer an arrangement where a small amount of employees' pay would be withheld and deposited into an IRA. Employees could opt out. This proposal remains part of the administration's FY 2010 budget proposal.
When the proposal was first released, there was some confusion as to whether companies offering a 401(k) would be newly required to "automatically enroll" their employees. That was not the intent, and the administration has clarified that the budget would not change the current policy. Currently, employers can elect to provide for automatic enrollment—and many do—but it is not mandatory.
Q: I understand that as a part of its active case management process, one in every scheduled review will include an onsite. But I have also heard that funding levels are not being increased, and I don't see many postings for additional OFCCP compliance officers. Can you share more about the funding for the OFCCP?
A: The 2010 budget calls for an increase for OFCCP of $25.6 million and 213 FTE, primarily for increasing the number of compliance officers; however, these positions cannot be advertised, and individuals cannot be hired until funds are appropriated by the Congress. Once OFCCP has received its FY2010 appropriation, it will move quickly to advertise and fill the new positions.
Q: We have not had live, informal conferences with the DOL on longshore cases in Wisconsin for several years. May some money be allocated for this, in order to give shipbuilders in Wisconsin the access to the DOL that we formerly enjoyed when there was a Chicago office? Our files are now handled by Houston. Thanks for your consideration.
A: The OWCP/Longshore Chicago District Office did provide in-person services on a limited basis in the geographical area surrounding the office. However, as the two experienced claims examiners in the office retired simultaneously, and the caseload of longshore claims in the region was declining, OWCP consolidated the Chicago office workload into the Houston District Office. The area is now served by the Houston staff, primarily via e-mail and telephone interaction.
The Longshore Division is working toward a teleconferencing capability that will provide a face-to-face ability to interact, not only for informal conferences, but also for training purposes.
If you or the insurance community in Wisconsin have any special needs that the Houston office is not fulfilling, the department invites you to communicate directly with Mike Niss at (202)693-0038, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Brad Soshea, the Houston district director, to address those needs.
Q: Did you do away with funding for the disability navigator program in all states or just the start-up ones?
A: The administration proposes to end targeted funding for work incentive grants, a demonstration program that began in 2000 and has accomplished its mission. Workforce investment boards are able to serve workers with disabilities effectively through their regular One-Stop Career Center operations. Services in the One-Stop Career Centers are supported by nearly $4 billion in formula grants from the Department of Labor, with additional funds from other One-Stop partners.
To foster greater innovation and emphasize its commitment to employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, the administration is requesting an increase of $10 million, or 39 percent, for the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, which provides national leadership on disability employment policy.
Building on the lessons learned from the work incentive grants, and in partnership with the Department of Education and others, ODEP will launch an initiative to work with One-Stop Career Centers, employers, labor organizations, and others to facilitate the placement, retention, and promotion of individuals with disabilities in integrated employment, apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs, and community service activities that help build skills for employment.
Q: No discussion of MSHA in opening statement. An import from Interior in 1978, MSHA has sometimes been the stepchild of an OSHA-minded DOL. But the history, the law, the hazards, and the working environment of mines are unique. Miners and mine operators will want to know if will they see support for MSHA's unique mission and mandate?
By the way, will the Secretary visit an underground mine?
A: The administration strongly supports enforcement activities making mines safer for American workers, including continuing to inspect 100% of the nation's mines covered by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act each and every year. The president is requesting $353,693,000, an increase of $6,690,000 above the FY 2009 appropriated level for MSHA. The budget includes $1.3 million and 15 FTE in new funding to strengthen the metal and nonmetal enforcement program. The request level will allow MSHA to enforce safety and health laws vigorously and complete its inspection mandate.
There are plans for the Secretary to visit an underground mine in the future.
Q: I am a DOL employee and I understand the need for federal agencies, like DOL, to operate efficiently, and save money whenever possible. The associate commissioner for field operations (OFO) in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Robert A. Gaddie, currently lives and works in Dallas, Texas, but commutes between the Washington, D.C., national office and the BLS Dallas regional office. Other BLS officials at the associate commissioner level have permanent duty stations at the Postal Square Building in Washington, D.C. It seems that the BLS is spending considerable funds traveling the associate commissioner between Dallas and Washington, D.C. Why is it necessary for DOL to spend excessive travel funds for the associate commissioner to live in Dallas, Texas, instead of Washington, D.C.? Thanks in advance for your response.
A: The duties of the associate commissioner for the Office for Field Operations (OFO) are unique among his peers in that they include both a national and regional component. The mission of the OFO is to support BLS survey programs and oversee data collection in the regions. In the national office, the associate commissioner for the OFO participates in policy discussions pertaining to the operations of the survey programs. In the regional offices, he monitors programs and receives feedback, which he uses to make informed decisions in the national and regional offices. Travel is an inherent component of the work performed by the associate commissioner for the OFO; the permanent duty location, wherever it may be, would not impact the overall travel burden for the position.
Q: Madam Secretary, thank you for clarifying the DOL budget for us. Will there be an increase in funds for the Women's Bureau to promote their mission in assisting wage-earning women in the workforce? If so, how much?
A: Women in the workforce are facing immense challenges in this difficult economic environment. As you know, I am committed to ensuring that women and families are included in all aspects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Women's Bureau, with its relatively stable budget, is efficiently and effectively utilizing its resources by continuing its existing projects, as well as researching and creating new opportunities to help women meet the needs of the 21st century workplace. They will receive a 1% increase in 2010, or about a $200,000 increase.
The Women's Bureau will plan and develop programs and activities to be implemented in FY 2010 that will assist women across generations and socioeconomic groups in their effort to participate in a sustainable "green" economy by attaining higher paying, career-ladder jobs. In addition, the Women's Bureau will collaborate with DOL agencies and other federal agencies to share successful best practices, discuss ways to reach out to women's organizations to increase access to ARRA and other federal funding, as well as to increase outreach to individual women. I have also asked the Women's Bureau to work with ESA's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to increase the participation of women in nontraditional jobs and with Veterans' Employment & Training Service to work with women veterans.
In addition, the Women's Bureau will focus efforts on new topics, including hosting workshops and creating publications on fair pay issues for working women, particularly focusing on disadvantaged women, to help keep working women competitive in today's workplace.
Q: With all due respect, why are you pulling the name numbers trick that the Bush administration tried to pull by comparing the FY 2010
proposal to FY 2009 proposal, rather than to the FY 2009 enacted, to make your budget increase for MSHA appear larger than it really is?
A: The department is committed to transparency and integrity in its budget discussion. The FY 2010 request for MSHA is $353.7 million, compared with the FY 2009 enacted level of $347 million, and the FY 2009 request level of $316 million. The comparison that we provided was between the FY 2009 enacted and FY 2010 proposed levels.
Q: The budget presentation makes no mention of mine safety and health. Can you provide information on funding for the Mine Safety and Health Administration?
A: The president is requesting $353,693,000, an increase of $6,690,000 above the FY 2009 appropriated level for MSHA. The budget includes $1.3 million and 15 FTE in new funding to strengthening the metal and nonmetal enforcement program. The request level will allow MSHA to vigorously enforce safety and health laws and complete its inspection mandate.
Q: My name is Regina Johnson, and I write for Platts Coal.
Have you had any indication from the Obama administration when a permanent successor to former MSHA head Richard Stickler will be named?
A: The president strongly supports miner health and safety and nominated Joe Main after careful consideration of all potential candidates.
Q: I was concerned that there was no mention of the Job Corps program in the Secretary's budget address. What can you tell me about the Job Corps' budget?
A: The Department of Labor continues its strong support of the Job Corps' mission. As the Secretary of Labor, I recognize the importance of this program and its potential impact on this nation's youth. Given today's evolving economy and its impact on our youth, Job Corps' commitment to reaching and serving this targeted population, to ensure education and job training, is critical. Our primary goal is to position those that we serve to acquire "good jobs" at the completion of their program.
With regard to the Job Corps budget, the FY 2010 request for Job Corps Operation is $1,557,199,000, an increase of $16,923,000 over the 2009 enacted level. This request will permit Job Corps to serve more youth in 2009, support anticipated increases in fixed costs at centers, and fund cost-of-living increases for federal staff at 28 agency-operated centers.
The FY 2010 request supports 44,950 slots an increase of 495 over the 2009 targeted level. It includes funding for additional slots at the new Milwaukee Job Corps Center, scheduled to open in FY 2010. The FY 2010 request also provides increases for some critical activities, including funding for workload increases for outreach/admissions and career transition contracts. It also supports the anticipated increases in fixed costs at centers, such as utilities and GSA vehicle rental. Job Corps remains committed to improving program efficiency without compromising the basic services, such as academic and career technical training, provided to our enrollees.
Additionally, Job Corps has targeted $36 million in Recovery Act funds to support critical operational needs. Job Corps will utilize the funds in the areas of Career Technical Skills Training and supplies and materials for hands-on training projects. The use of funding in this area will not only increase green job training, but allow Job Corps' participants to be strategically placed to compete successfully for the employment opportunities in the emerging green economy.
Q: How will the budget affect the Job Corps' program?
A: Job Corps continues its commitment of reaching and serving its targeted population to ensure education and job training throughout all of our centers, which results in "good jobs for everyone" in our changing economy.
The FY 2010 request for Job Corps' operation is $1,557,199,000, an increase of $16,923,000 over the 2009 enacted level. This request will permit Job Corps to serve more youth in 2009, support anticipated increases in fixed costs at centers, and fund cost-of-living increases for federal staff at 28 agency-operated centers.
The FY 2010 request supports 44,950 slots an increase of 495 over the 2009 targeted level. It includes funding for additional slots at the new Milwaukee Job Corps Center, scheduled to open in FY 2010. The FY 2010 request also provides increases for some critical activities, including funding for workload increases for outreach/admissions and career transition contracts. It also supports the anticipated increases in fixed costs at centers, such as utilities and GSA vehicle rental. Job Corps remains committed to improving program efficiency without compromising the basic services, such as academic and career technical training, which is provided to enrollees.
Additionally, Job Corps has targeted $36 million in Recovery Act funds to support critical operational needs. Job Corps will utilize the funds in the areas of career technical skills training and supplies and materials for hands-on training projects. The use of funding in this area will not only increase green job training, but allow Job Corps' participants to be strategically placed to compete successfully for the emerging employment opportunities in the green economy.
Q: Will DOL ever pull the workers' compensation bill payment system back inside the department? Would this not save the government dollars having these payments processed by OWCP?
A: Medical-bill processing is a dynamic industry with constant changes in medical treatments, billing procedures, and abusive billing practices. To ensure that bills are processed to pay accurately, OWCP contracts with a service provider that specializes in the industry, provides the computer systems, and provides staffing for various phases of medical-bill processing. Significant costs are associated with maintaining and refreshing the technology for bill processing, call center, and imaging systems as technology advances. Because commercial service providers may spread costs over many large customers, they are actually able to provide the services at a much lower cost than OWCP, and they are able to refresh the technology as advances are made. Both of these benefits result in better service to our constituents.
In turn ,OWCP staff and claims examiners' expertise is directed toward determining what conditions are covered for medical treatment under the laws and regulations of the program, authorizing benefits and medical treatment, and determining when exceptions may be made to the rules built into the medical-bill processing system. The current service has added provider enrollment, call-center support, and automated linkages between accepted conditions and allowable treatments. The decision-making process remains with the claims examiner staff, including ensuring that the accepted conditions for a claimant are up to date.
Q: Hello, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. My question is how to get your workmen compensation claim benefits when there was a coverup and misfiling of paperwork?
Also, how do you get your claim approved?
A: It is unclear from your question whether you work in the private sector or are a federal employee. Workers' compensation for private sector employees, and state and local government employees is directed by the workers' compensation commission of the state government where the worker resides. Rules may vary from state to state, and I would suggest that you pose your question to your state authority. If you are a federal employee, you should initiate your claim through your employing agency's workers' compensation specialist. The agency must provide the completed claim to the Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. You will receive notice of your claim number and specific information as to the evidence needed to establish entitlement to benefits.
Q: Please give us an idea of when you plan to fill the position of director of OFCCP? Thanks.
A: The department has been working diligently to identify the best candidate for this position and hope that it will be filled shortly.
Q: What percentage of the OFCCP budget will be used to implement new enforcement initiatives? If so, what type of new enforcement activities are on the agenda?
A: The department is committed to reestablishing its enforcement capabilities in the worker protection agencies, including OFCCP. The FY 2010 budget includes a requested increase of $25.6 million and 213 FTE for OFCCP that will be used primarily for enforcement purposes. In addition, the department is reexamining how the current resources for OFCCP are used and how they can be targeted more efficiently to meet the goals for this important enforcement agency.
Q: What kind of case management system will be in place? Will there be more coordination among the regions as to consistency of audits? Also, can you give us any information on who the new director will be?
A: Dr. John Lund has been named the deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Labor-Management Standards. He reported to work on June 29, and will be managing all aspects of OLMS and its processes, including case management and audit procedures.
Q: After being wrongfully terminated, my union local 735 IAM would not and did not help me at all. The lack of help came when I was terminated while on strike. The things I was terminated for they have no evidence. What can I do? Please advise me of my rights. Thank you for your time.
A: The question you ask is outside the law enforced by the Department of Labor, including the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). Although OLMS cannot assist you, you may wish to contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is a separate federal agency that administers the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which regulates labor-management relations in the private sector, including issues concerning union representation and unfair labor practices of unions and employers. The Secretary of Labor has no authority to intervene in NLRB matters. You can obtain information concerning the NLRA from the NLRB’s Web site at http://www.nlrb.gov.
Q: My question is I had last February six years with this corporation, and I was supposed to have a raise. In May, my director did my evaluation and everything went great. She told me that the corporation had to freeze the raises because of the economy, so we won’t have a raise this year until minimum wage goes up in July. Is this legal to do?
A: The question you ask and the problem you face is outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor. I regret that we cannot assist you. You may have rights under state or local law, or an employment contract with your employer. You may wish to consult a private attorney.
Q: How will the department ensure that unions are using their members’ dues money properly if you ease regulations relating to disclosure and transparency and reduce the enforcement by OLMS? Shouldn’t unions be required to make public this information, so that members can see how their money is being spent?
A: This administration is committed to ensuring union democracy, transparency, and the lawful use of labor-union monies. The department's Office of Labor-Management Standards enforces various reporting provisions that are designed to empower labor organizations and their members by providing the means and information to ensure a proper accounting of labor-organization funds. OLMS believes that a fair and transparent government regulatory regime must consider and balance the interests of labor organizations, their members, and the public. Any change to a union’s recordkeeping, accounting, and reporting practices should be based on a demonstrated and significant need for additional information, consideration of the burden associated with such reporting, and any increased costs associated with reporting additional information.
The questions you raise are at the heart of on ongoing rulemaking. OLMS has published a proposal in the Federal Register proposing to rescind a rule published on the last day of the prior administration, January 21, 2009. 74 Fed. Reg. 18172 (April 21, 2009). The January 21 rule greatly expanded the amount of information that labor unions must track and report. The public has commented on all aspects of this proposal, and OLMS is closely studying and analyzing the comments. Although no final decisions have been made, OLMS is committed to weigh the benefits of increased disclosure accurately against the burden of increased reporting and make a determination that is in the best interest of labor-union members and the public. A strong labor movement is essential to fulfilling our vision of "good jobs for everyone."
Q: Regarding the OFCCP - what are the Department's plans for publishing detailed information about conciliation agreements reached between the agency and Federal contractors?
A: OFCCP is sensitive to the President's call for greater transparency in government, and more extensive publication of this type of enforcement information will be a matter for careful evaluation going forward. Once a new OFCCP Director is in place, decisions can be made on these issues in line with overall policy direction and goals.
Q: Why not require the local Workforce Investment Boards to put innovation RFPs out for all the Stimulus Package monies? If you don't, you will get exactly the same results. There are small innovative programs that are delivered online and for non readers and have self-employment programs. I have such a program, I cannot bid on any of the RFPs because I do not "run programs" and I do not know which program will get the grants and funding. It makes innovation from small businesses virtually impossible. RFPs need to say, these are our goals, how can you meet them? Otherwise, you are relying on purchasing agents to define what happens with these monies. Also with all local bid lists being different and varied in their requirements and deadlines, it is yet another barrier to small innovative businesses -- make the locals list RFPs at least with the state bid listings. These two minor changes will change your results for unemployed people dramatically.
A: The workforce investment system is a decentralized system that provides flexibility for Local Workforce Investment Boards to tailor their service delivery strategies to their local labor markets. Local Workforce Investment Boards (LWIB) are being encouraged to develop innovative approaches to service delivery using Recovery Act funds. Training providers interested in being eligible to deliver training should contact their LWIB to apply to be on the state's eligible training provider list. Providers of on-line programs may be eligible in the same way as other training providers. LWIBs have other mechanisms to procure training and/or service providers as well and can counsel with you on their approach.
Q: What efforts will be made to expand the availability of defined benefit pension plans, which are superior to defined contribution plans in terms of providing a secure retirement for workers?
A: One of the Department's missions is to protect the security of retirement benefits for America's workers, retirees and their families, and to support the growth of our private benefits system. Both defined benefit and defined contribution plans have an important role in contributing to a dignified retirement for workers, and both have been under stress due to the financial crisis. We are working to preserve the defined benefit system, and at the same time we are examining how defined contribution plans can be improved. The President's FY2010 budget outline also includes proposals to expand retirement savings incentives for working families. These include establishing a system of automatic workplace IRAs and expanding the Saver's Credit.
Q: What percentage of the budget will be used to implement new enforcement initiatives? If so, what type of new enforcement activities are on the agenda?
A: Basically, the entire increase of $23.6 million, and most of the 213 additional full-time employees, will be directed toward strengthening the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' overall enforcement posture and commitment to strong enforcement of three legal authorities: Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended. Over recent years, as a result of streamlined desk audit procedures, onsite reviews -- reviews in which compliance officers reviewed the personnel practices of federal contractors by visiting them on location -- have decreased by more than 50 percent.
Further, a significant percentage of the budget will support enforcement and outreach efforts related to compensation. Given the complexities of new procedures outlined in two Federal Register notices addressing Interpretive Standards for Compensation Discrimination and Voluntary Guidelines for Self Evaluation of Compensation Practices respectively, OFCCP will place additional emphasis on outreach and training, as well as improving the various approaches and investigative techniques used to evaluate compensation.
Q: Will OFCCP use some of the budget dollars to hire additional staff? If so, what types of jobs will be filled and where?
A: Yes, most of the budget dollars will be used to hire compliance officers.
Q: I am a veteran owned small business specializing in energy efficient products and projects which I solicit to various government entities. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) for some time now to locate government assistance including grants to help me train, hire and employ veterans disabled in the Middle East wars.
Does the DOL have any programs available for such a worthy pursuit?
The Department has several potential places where you could receive some help.
1. The Department's Office of Small Business Programs conducts periodic vendor outreach sessions at DOL to introduce businesses to the Department's agencies. This is a good place to talk with our agencies and learn of our requirements - http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/osdbu/vendor_internet_info.htm.
2. The other DOL option is to apply for a Veterans' Workforce Improvement Program grant through our Department's Veterans Employment Training Service. The solicitation for grant applications is available on our Web site http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/vwip/main.htm.
Q: Are you going to correct the way that OWCP recipients were excluded from the cost of living raise this year?
A: As with Social Security, cost of living increases under the Office of Worker's Compensation Programs'(OWCP) Federal Employees' Compensation Act are computed annually based on a formula driven by inflation computations. For this year, there was no basis for an increase based on inflation.
Q: Many of the emerging jobs in the green economy will require union membership. Minorities are still underrepresented in the Apprenticeship programs leading to full union membership and good jobs. How can DOL foster better "feeder mechanisms" like Pre-apprenticeship program with national nonprofit intermediaries through cooperative agreement and grants?
A: The Employment Training Administration is exploring a number of options to expand opportunities for individuals to access Registered Apprenticeship programs, particularly those related to emerging green jobs. Some of these options include better leveraging of existing program resources such as Workforce Investment Act to fund pre-apprenticeship efforts as well as new investments made with the Recovery Act funds targeted at green jobs.
This budget proposes to foster development of a more formalized approach to pre-apprenticeship that specifically links apprenticeship sponsors with programs offered by community-based and faith-based organizations, vocational/technical schools and community colleges to train and provide services to individuals seeking employment. The Department would "certify" these types of "pre-apprenticeship" programs which demonstrate that participants are ready and fully capable of meeting program sponsors' requirements for selecting and placing the pre-apprentices into registered apprenticeship programs.
DOL's certification process for pre-apprenticeship programs will help serve as a "feeder mechanism" to connect workers who have not traditionally met the selection criteria for registered apprenticeships with the labor-management and other employer organizations that sponsors apprenticeships.
In addition, the Department is actively working on a comprehensive set of Solicitation for Grant Award which will encourage pathways from poverty to emerging green jobs and other partnering approaches. We are encouraging the publicly funded workforce system to more actively reach out to community and faith based groups who can identify and connect underrepresented groups in training opportunities and jobs.
Q: What are the plans for Federal Extension for California Unemployment for 2010?
A: While the Obama Administration's efforts are beginning to turn the economy around, millions of Americans, who are willing to work but cannot find a job, are being helped by the current Federal unemployment benefit extension. As we get closer to the end of the year, when the current program is scheduled to expire, the Administration will be taking a close look at economic conditions and the continued need for benefits.
Q: Will there be any relief to businesses on unemployment insurance tax rates for employers who had to downsize to remain solvent due to the 4th Quarter 2008 market downturn?
A: The taxes that fund most unemployment benefits are levied by the States, and each state will be making its own decisions about tax rates.
The Federal Unemployment Tax is administered by the Treasury Department, and any changes to that tax would require Federal legislation.
Q:I submitted a question to Secretary Solis regarding a new agency Obama wants to create that would oversee his Auto IRA proposal. I would like to know if it's possible for the new agency to potential be under DOL ... similar to the structure of OSHA? Also have Solis and the President had talked related to this at all?
A:The president's budget proposes to create a new system of automatic workplace pensions. The budget includes funding for the start-up costs of establishing a new independent agency to administer the program.
Q:Will there be an increase in the budget for OFCCP?
A:The department's FY 2010 budget requests an additional $23.6 million and 213 full time employees for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to augment field office staff and increase the number of compliance evaluations and complaint investigations. In addition, the budget request includes $2 million to develop a new case management system to enhance OFCCP's compliance and enforcement strategies.
Q:I have been an IT worker and my job has been offshored to India for the third time. What is being done about the H1B and companies moving american jobs abroad?
A:The Administration shares your concern about the offshoring of American jobs. In fact, on February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act of 2009. This new law was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act extended Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) eligibility to workers in the services sector, including many IT workers. The TAA program is designed to give retraining opportunities to workers adversely affected by foreign trade, to assist them in obtaining the skills necessary to return to work as soon as possible. To facilitate this goal, TAA certified workers may access a menu of services that include income support, relocation allowances, job search allowances, and a health coverage tax credit, in addition to occupational training.
This new program takes effect on May 18, 2009. I encourage you to contact your local One-Stop Career Center for additional information.
Q:Where is the federal budget in the approval process and when do you think it will be finalized if it hasn't yet?
A:Now that the president has transmitted his detailed FY 2010 budget to Congress, the next step in the approval process is congressional budget hearings. The secretary will testify on the Department of Labor's budget before the House and Senate in May. Then, the House and Senate will produce FY 2010 appropriations bills, which will include funding for the Department of Labor. Once Congress passes a FY 2010 appropriation for the department, it goes to the president for signature.
Q:I am a veteran owned small business specializing in energy efficient products and projects which I solicit to various government entities. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) for some time now to locate government assistance including grants to help me train, hire and employ veterans disabled in the Middle East wars.
Does the DOL have any programs available for such a worthy pursuit? Thank You.
A:Here are several suggestions:
1. The Labor Department's Office of Small Business Programs conducts periodic vendor outreach sessions to introduce businesses to the department's agencies. This is a good place to talk with DOL agencies and learn of our requirements. Go to http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/osdbu/vendor_internet_info.htm
2. Another possibility is to apply for a Veterans Workforce Improvement Program grant. The solicitation for grant applications is available on our Web site at: http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/vwip/main.htm
3. Finally, the main source for small businesses is the Small Business Administration, Office of Veterans Business Development. Go to
Q:As the Department of Labor Secretary, how do you propose that the small and struggling NPO's be able to have the information, systems, knowledge and available manpower to be able to comply with current and additional non-funded mandates from the federal government? (example: ARRA) Respectfully submitted, in Topeka.
A:Labor Department staff are responding on behalf of the secretary because her live Web chat has concluded. We understand that the ARRA results in unprecedented reporting and transparency, which call for greater resources dedicated to complying with these requirements. However, the Act results in increased accountability to the taxpayers, which benefits all Americans.
Q:Will there be any relief to businesses on unemployment insurance tax rates for employers who had to downsize to remain solvent due to the 4th Quarter 2008 market downturn?
A:The unemployment insurance program is a federal-state partnership. The taxes that fund most unemployment benefits are levied by the states, and each state will be making its own decisions about tax rates. The Federal Unemployment Tax is administered by the Treasury Department, and any changes to that tax would require federal legislation.
Q:Will the new OFCCP hires be allocated to specific regions or spread throughout the country?
A:Yes, specific hiring plans are being developed. The hiring will be throughout the country with an emphasis on front-line investigators.
Q:Has the President discussed with you his plan to commission a study on college students with disabilities and their transition to jobs or higher education? If so, what are the plans? Will you be working in concert with the Department of Education?
A:Unfortunately the Secretary had to leave, but we can tell you about the FY 2010 budget for the Office of Disability Employment Policy. The FY 2010 request will enable ODEP to undertake a new $10 million initiative that will focus on working with one-stops, employers, Labor-Management Partnerships, Labor Unions, and other stakeholders to improve the employment process for individuals with disabilities utilizing pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs, and career related community service opportunities.
Q:With the new ARRRA, programs like Job Corps are receiving much more money to service at risk youth, however in recent OIG audits conducted it has been determined that the numbers reflecting the programs performance are skewed and inaccurate. Since continued and/or additional funding is based on performance outcomes submitted to congress, how will you ensure accountability for the funds being expended by the program and how will you ensure that they are truly meeting the goals and measures of the program?
A:Job Corps has put into place a "data integrity" strategy to ensure that operators are not putting erroneous information into the Job Corps data system. Some components of the strategy include: revision of the program assessment guide to require mandatory audits of performance information; edits in all of our automation systems; Regional staff conducting data integrity audits; and we have a contractor that reviews our performance data quarterly to determine if any data integrity infractions are apparent. We also assess liquidate damages (monetary) to operators that are found to have violated the data integrity guidelines. Our contractors at the centers are required to have their own assessment and data validity audit plans and systems.
Q:Does the $3.3 billion for UI state administration for FY 2009 include the $500 million given to states as part of the ARRA? Is the $3.3 billion for FY 2010 inclusive of one time ARRA funds as well?
A:The $3.3 billion included in the FY 2010 request released today does not include resources appropriated in the Recovery Act. Recovery Act resources are noted in the budget request but those resources have already been appropriated by Congress.
Q:We have a one-stop career center on the campus of a community college and have attempted to access WIA funds to provide skills training services. What oversight is there to ensure "real" partnerships between local WIBs and other job-training services programs?
A:The fact that the Community College is hosting a one-stop center is a very important partnership to build on. The recent guidance ETA issued for Recovery Act funds encourages authentic partnerships with Community Colleges including contracts for training between WIBs and Community Colleges in occupations and industries that are important to the local communities.
Q:Will the budget delegate specific funds to be used only for the Whistleblower Protection Program in response to deficiencies in training, equipment, data collection and staffing found by the GAO?
A:The budget request includes an additional 25 whistleblower investigators to rebuild OSHA's enforcement efforts. This represents an investigator increase of 10 percent. OSHA will also emphasis hiring bilingual staff to match the languages used in the local workplaces.
Q:I graduated in 2006 with a master of public administration, and have not secured employment close to my major, or skills level. Now, I am faced with loans to pay back along with supporting my family. I need employment to meet all of my obligations, such as family and educational loans. I need employment. Help me please!!!
A:For federal employment visit USAJOBS.GOV. In addition we recommend you visit your local one-stop center for information on jobs in your areas.
Q:Why was the Disability Navigator Program Cut for 2010?
A:The directed funding for the Workforce Incentive Grants were originally appropriated for a 3-year pilot. They were in existence for seven years. This demonstration program has accomplished its mission and the lessons learned are being incorporated into other programs. Building on the best practices developed under the Incentive Grants the budget boost funding for the Office of Disability Employment Policy by $10 million dollars to facilitate the employment and advancement of individuals with disabilities.
Q:I am with the People's Out Reach, which is already a Faith-Based Partner, and I would like to know how Secretary Solis will be helping these organizations retrieve and access funding.
A:The Administration will continue outreach to Faith-Based organization. DOL specifically will work with agencies with large grant making authority to ensure that Faith-Based organizations are included in solicitations for grant proposals.
Q:As someone who has been involved with workforce development for 25 years I am excited about having a new administration working diligently to provide opportunities to train and retrain the American workforce for 21st Century careers.
In light of the enormous need to build a first-class workforce development system, how will the Department of Labor address the cumbersome and bureaucratic criteria inherent in the Workforce Investment Act legislation currently in place?
A:We have received numerous letters identifying issues relevant to reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, and we are appreciative of your interest and input. The Department looks forward to working with Congress and stakeholders as legislation takes shape. President Obama has called on Congress to work with him to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, and the Department’s FY 2010 Congressional Budget Request continues to support efforts to improve the effectiveness of the workforce system. The Administration is conducting a comprehensive review of federal job training programs to assess their effectiveness, which will inform the Administration's proposal for an improved workforce system.
Q: To clarify the budget line for the wage and hour division. Secretary Solis said the funding would increase $35 million to $227 million. In the budget document released today the "enforcement of wage and hour standards" showed an increase of $37 million to $238 million. Could you clarify why those numbers are different? And then separately does the increased funding for the wage and hour division of the Labor Department include any funding for efforts in garment or textile workplaces? To follow on that, has there been an increase or reduction in the number of investigations or citations in those industries?
A:The $37 million increase includes funds that the Wage and Hour Division received from the Recovery Act that will be used in FY 2010. The $35 million increase is the request for new resources included in the FY 2010 budget, compared to the 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Act. The additional resources in the 2010 budget request will enable the division to reinvigorate its enforcement with respect to low-wage and vulnerable workers, including the garment industry in areas where it is still prevalent, such as New York City and Southern California. Overall, the number of investigations of the garment industry has declined over the last 10 to 12 years as the number of garment establishments has declined.
Q: How is the Department of Labor's budget related to that of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation? I know you serve on the Board, and we've been hearing a lot in the media about potential insolvency at PBGC. Is this something that may affect DOL's budget in the future?
A:Thanks for your question, Anne. As you noted, I serve as Chair of the Board for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (or PBGC). As such, PBGC's budget for administrative expenses is included with the Department of Labor's request. However, the Department's consolidated financial statements do not include the PBGC.
Also, it is important to note that PBGC activities are not funded through general taxpayer contributions, but instead from employer paid premiums, investment income, assets from trusteed pension plans, and recoveries from companies formerly responsible for pension plans taken over by the PBGC. As of September 30, 2008, PBGC programs reported deficits of approximately $11 billion. However, the Corporation has sufficient liquidity to meet its obligations for a number of years, which will allow it to address the solvency issues you reference.
Q: In light of the enormous need to build a first-class workforce development system, how will the Department of Labor address the cumbersome and bureaucratic criteria inherent in the Workforce Investment Act legislation currently in place?
A:The President said, in his March 10 speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, that he is calling on Congress, “to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.” I am currently developing a set of principles and themes to guide our reform efforts. I also expect to meet soon with the key Committee leadership on WIA reauthorization and the Department’s key interests for reform. We will then develop the framework for a legislative proposal leading either to legislative specifications or a bill for introduction.
Q: We have a one-stop career center on the campus of a community college and have attempted to access WIA funds to provide skills training services. What oversight is there to ensure "real" partnerships between local WIBs and other job-training services programs?
A:The fact that the Community College is hosting a one-stop center is a very important partnership to build on. The recent guidance ETA issued for Recovery Act funds encourages authentic partnerships with Community Colleges including contracts for training between WIBs and Community Colleges in occupations and industries that are important to the local communities.
Q: How will your new job training evaluation efforts dovetail with OMB’s examinations?
PS I echo the congratulations that you and the president have placed a renewed focus on building a world class workforce.
A: The new job training evaluation is part of an overarching approach by the Administration to promote accountability and to invest resources in programs and services that work for the American people.
Q: You talk about creating 'green jobs' What are they and will they be around for a long time or just temporary?
A: Yes, not only will these jobs promote energy independence, they are an important part of a new green economy that the President is building through investments in the Recovery Act and the FY 2010 budget. The jobs have the potential to payer higher wages. Our plans include investing in career ladders to ensure that all Americans have access to the training they need to quality for these jobs. In addition there is money in the budget for Bureau of Labor Statistics to better define these jobs and the skills necessary to perform them.
Q: What are the plans to include an Office of Mature Workers or
a Mature Workers Bureau to parallel the current Office of Disability
Employment and the Women's Bureau.
A: The department does not have an office of mature workers.
However, we do administer a senior community service employment program
that provides subsidized jobs for low income, senior citizens. The
FY2010 budget is $575.4M in FY2010. This will serve approximately 91,000
low income mature workers.
Q: What are the plans for Federal unemployment extensions for
A: The FY2010 budget does not include plans for further extensions
of unemployment compensation based on current projections. However,
during the course of the year, the administration will monitor the
progress of the economy, and we could make possible adjustments if
Q: Hello. Does Labor department have any plan to minimize American jobs being outsourced overseas and foreign worker coming in to take blue and white collar jobs that can be performed by Americans. Thank you.
A:Our investment in Green Jobs and healthcare careers are examples of two areas where jobs are least likely to be outsourced. We also use employee fee revenues to support training in careers where employers have previously turned to foreign labor.
Q: What are the plans to include an Office of Mature Workers or
a Mature Workers Bureau to parallel the current Office of Disability
Employment and the Women's Bureau.
A: What are the plans to include an Office of Mature Workers or
a Mature Workers Bureau to parallel the current Office of Disability
Employment and the Women's Bureau.
Q: Do you forsee a new vision for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs?
A: Yes, our budget increases resources for the OFFCP by $27.4 million, a 33 percent increase over FY 2009 in recognition of the importance of monitoring the compliance of equal opportunity and affirmative action provisions of federal contracts.
Q: How will DOL help end homelessness in America?
A: One role that the Department of Labor plays in combating homelessness is our competitive grant program for homeless veterans. The FY 2010 budget increases that program $9 million dollars bringing the total to $35.3 million - an increase of 34 percent. We are also encouraging our one-stop centers to provide wraparound services to all disadvantaged, including those at-risk of homelessness.
Q: Why does OSHA get a 10 percent budget increase, while MSHA only gets 2 percent? And why isn't mine safety highlighted in any of these budget materials? Is protecting the nation's miners simply not a priority for the Department?
A: Over the past several years, MSHA has received large budget increases, which have allowed the agency to step up its enforcement significantly, including the ability to conduct 100 percent of its mandatory mine inspections. On the other hand, OSHA’s budget has remained flat over the last few years. For example, between 2001 and 2009, OSHA’s staff levels fell by nine percent, while MSHA’s remained steady. In addition, the FY 2010 increase for OSHA’s state programs is the first significant increase in years.
Q: Knowing that OWCP has started to use the 6th Edition of the AMA to permanent impairment to determine the percentage of entitlement to a schedule award effective 5/1/09, why are District office's requiring claimants to re-submit evaluations using the 6th Edition when the District offices have received prior to 5/01 a completed CA-7, claim for a schedule award, and a medical report using the 5th Edition?
A: Division of Federal Employees' Compensation (DFEC) procedures establish that any permanent impairment decision issued after May 1, 2009, must be based on the 6th Edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Medical evaluations based on the 5th Edition of the Guides may not contain sufficient medical information to determine the percentage of permanent impairment under the 6th Edition of the Guides. Consequently, an individual requesting compensation for permanent impairment is provided the opportunity to submit a medical evaluation by their own treating physician which is based on the current edition of the Guides prior to arranging for an evaluation by a second opinion physician.
Q: Thank you for doing this webinar. We are particularly interested in developing the current and a new generation of healthcare workforce, for the workorce shortage is strong, and un avoidably will get more serious. Will DOL be targeting or supporting the healthcare sector in any way? thank you for your time.
A: Yes, the healthcare sector will be an important target for training in several programs including the new career pathways innovations fund and future H1B training grants. In addition, ETA guidance for the FY 2009 formula funds encouraged states and localities to develop health care sector training strategies.
Q: Are you or will you re-appropriate funds to the Native Labor
grantees to assist tribal members in their Tribal WIA programs?
A: Yes, we have a budget request for $52.7M in FY2010. This will
allow us to develop more fully the academic, occupational, and literacy
skills of such individuals; make them more competitive in the workforce;
and promote the economic and social development of Native Americans and
their communities in accordance with the goals and values of such
Q: Where does the agency put MSHA funding in the budget? Is there any shift in resources for mine safety inspections?
A: MSHA funding is requested under the heading “Mine Safety and Health Administration." The budget requests an increase of $6.7 million, including $1.3 million for 15 additional metal and non-metal safety and health staff. The FY 2010 budget will allow MSHA to conduct 100 percent of its mandatory mine inspections.
Q: What measures have been put in place to ensure that women are included in non-traditional job training and employment?
A: As part of the Recovery Act ETA regional office staff are reviewing the readiness of all states and the local largest workforce areas. As part of that review we are asking states and localities to review their provisions regarding equity and fair treatment for all workers and to examine their anti-discrimination practices.
Q: Can you give us more info on specifically what areas EBSA will be getting into with the new slots and new investigations?
A: The FY 2010 budget request for EBSA includes an increase of $10 million and 75 FTE. This will strengthen the Department’s enforcement of the laws that protect Americans pension and health care benefits at a time when workers are increasing relying on EBSA to protect their benefits. The proposal will be used to enhance the security of both pension and health benefits.
Q: Will the 2010 budget allow an increase for the number of
employees in DOL?
A: Yes. The department's fiscal year 2010 budget requests an
increase of 997 FTEs.
Q: How will the new legislation submitted by Senator Durbin, (H-1
effect operations at DOL?
A: Answer: We will review all contracts for any waste and fraud, and where
appropriate we will continue to utilize contract, but will emphasize the
hiring of federal employees. Salaries for these federal positions can
range from about $27,000 to $127,000. I encourage to consider applying
and sharing this information with others.
Q: Will the Administration be releasing a WIA Reauthorization bill/proposal for Congressional introduction, or will you just provide reaction/comment to bills introduced by the House and Senate?
A: The President said, in his March 10 speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, that he is calling on Congress, "to authorize the Workforce Investment Act." I welcome the President's support and expect to meet soon with the key Committee leadership on WIA reauthorization and the Department's key interests for reform. We will then develop the framework for a legislative proposal leading either to legislative specifications or a bill for introduction.
Q: Why was the Career Pathways/Community College budget cut to $74 million from the $125 million budgeted in FY209? Is it because that spending is being replaced by the Recovery Act?
A: This program was not cut. The 2009 budget included $125 million for Community-Based Job Training Grants. The 2010 budget renames and refocuses that program as Career Pathways Innovation Fund and increases funding to $135 million. The new program will focus on developing career pathways in community colleges for high-growth careers in partnership with workforce investment boards, faith-based groups and other community groups.
Q: Will the 1,000 new jobs within the DoL be throughout the USA?
A: The vast majority of these jobs are for worker protection activities.
To name a few - investigators, inspectors, and safety and health compliance officers. The positions will be throughout the United States and will consist of a wide range of salaries.
Q: Will ETA-OFLC ever be approved to charge a fee for service to
assist as an alternate solution to just receiving appropriations?
A: The fiscal 2010 budget does not include any authority to charge
a fee for service for foreign labor certification. Of course, the
current fee for H1b visas continues.
Q: Will there be funding for the College and Univrersity partnerships for technical assistance programs for our HSIs to develop workforce development programs for green jobs of the future.
A: Yes, the 2010 budget includes $135 million for a career pathways innovations fund. This fund will support community colleges to develop training programs leading to careers in health care green energy and other high-growth jobs in partnership with the workforce investment system.
Q: What is the budget request for OFCCP for 2010? How does this request compare to OFCCP’s budget for 2009?
If there is an increase in OFCCP’s budget request for 2010, what will the increase be used for – increase in staff? If it is increase in staff, how much of an increase in OFCCP staff is expected under this budget request?
A: The budget request for OFCCP in FY 2010 is $109.5 million dollars. The budget for OFCCP for FY 09 is $82.1 million dollars. The staffing request for OFCCP for FY 10 is 798 FTE compared to 585 FTE in FY 09.
Q: Would you provide the Office of Apprenticeship funds--even allow them to make small grants-- to promote apprenticeship?
A: The Department is actively working on a comprehensive set of Solicitation for Grant Award which will, amongst other policy goals, encourage greater partnerships with and promotion of Registered Apprenticeship programs. Also in our ARRA Policy Guidance, we are encouraging the publicly funded workforce system to more actively reach out to Registered Apprenticeship programs, including labor management organizations.
Finally, in the past year, ETA has provided over $10 million in discretionary resources to support and promote Registered Apprenticeship. $6.5 million was made available to national organizations to incorporate elements of the revised regulatory framework governing the National Apprenticeship System. $2.5 million was made available to State Apprenticeship Agencies to assist in their efforts to modernize their Apprenticeship systems. Finally, technical assistance resources were provided for a series of Action Clinics around the country to promote greater collaboration with Registered Apprenticeship.
I am a government contractor and wish to ask a question.
In our tough economy it seems the solution is pumping more money rather than elimination. President Obama in his executive order as to Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service, mentioned a policy to retain and convert contractors to government employees, or requiring new contracting companies to retain them if any change is to happen to their contracts.
This sounds in line with the common sense rule of pumping more money into the economy.
Do you have any specifics as the President Order implementation in the Department of Labor? Would the retention mean sustaining the same pay level and befits, or the new contractors would negotiate new salaries and benefits with existing contractors?
Thank you for your answer in advance, and best of luck in running this huge task.
A: Thank you for your good wishes, Hany.
The government-wide Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council is tasked with issuing regulations to implement the President’s Executive Order, and this must occur within 180 days of its issuance.
These new regulations will provide specific instructions on how the federal agencies are to carry out the Executive Order, including the “non-displacement” provisions to which you refer in your question.
The Department will work with the FAR Council on the regulations, and also will be examining how the President’s Executive Order will affect our Wage and Hour Division’s enforcement of the Service Contract Act.
Q: What are the plans for Federal unemployment extensions for 2010?
A: While the Obama Administration's efforts are beginning to turn the economy around, millions of Americans, who are willing to work but cannot find a job, are being helped by the current Federal unemployment benefit extension. As we get closer to the end of the year, when the current program is scheduled to expire, the Administration will be taking a close look at economic conditions and the continued need for benefits.
Q: Back in the 70's and 80's you ran a program called CETA Comprehensive Training & Employment Act, later replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act. This got a lot of people jobs - will you include funding in your budget for a similar program that is definitely needed now?
A: The publicly funded system that provides employment and training programs to assist displaced workers and job seekers is authorized by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). The Obama Administration is working to reauthorize this act.
The FY 2010 budget does include a new initiative for transitional jobs - $50 million will subsidize jobs for noncustodial parents and young adults to help them enter the world of work.
Q: Will OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant Program survive and at what requested funding level?
A: The President’s FY 2010 Budget Request includes $10 million for the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program.
Q: What is the status of funding for the migrant and seasonal farmworker job training program?
A: The 2010 Target is $82,620,000 to serve the 17,832 participants (as in the TES submission).
Q: Will Federal OSHA fully fund the state plans to the 50% level for enforcement of the agreed to number of enforcement employees between the state and federal OSHA for budget year 2010?
A: The President’s FY 2010 Budget Request includes an increase of $13.8 million in Federal funding for State Program grants. This represents a 15% increase over the prior year level and will enable the states to increase their enforcement staff over prior years.
Q: Wage and Hour has fewer inspectors than at its formation in 1941. How much will its budget OUTLAYS increase? How many more inspectors will be hired?
A: The president’s FY 2010 request includes an increase of $30,862,000 and 288 full time employees (FTEs), the large majority of which will be investigators. When combined with the ongoing hiring, the FY 2010 requested increase in FTEs will bring the Wage and Hour Division back to pre-FY 2001 investigator staffing levels.
Q: What industries will the agency concentrate on? Construction? Housing? Health care? Other industries known to exploit undocumented workers?
A: The Wage and Hour Division will strengthen its enforcement efforts on behalf of the most vulnerable workers in the workforce — agricultural workers, young workers, workers with disabilities — and on behalf of workers in industries such as construction, janitorial, restaurants, hotel and motel, and health care, where the violations rates tend to be high and the workers, for a number of reasons, are among the more vulnerable in the workplace.
In reference to an earlier MSHA question, I inadvertently referred to MSHA as the Mine Safety Health Commission, but it is really the Mine Safety Health Administration.
Q: How much money has been set aside for the state grants program under MSHA? How does that compare to last year?
A: $8,441,000 – the same amount as FY 2009
Q: How much money is being set aside for enforcement at MSHA, broken out by Coal vs. Metal/Non-Metal? How does that compare to last year?
A: Coal: FY 2009 $154,491,000, FY 2010 $156,662,000 (an increase of $2,171,000)
Metal/Non-Metal: FY 2009 $82,427,000, FY 2010 $85,672,000 (an increase of $3,245,000)
Q: How much money is being set aside for new regulations at MSHA? How does that compare to last year?
A: MSHA’s enforcement programs do not set aside funding for compliance assistance activities. MSHA offers compliance assistance to labor unions, employers and individual workers to help them understand the safety and health laws and fully comply with them. Compliance assistance resources include partnerships, online tools, educational materials and training programs. At the same time, MSHA continues its aggressive enforcement activities.
Q:How much money is being set aside for new regulations at MSHA? How does that compare to last year?
A: From MSHA’s Office of Standards, Regulations and Variances:
FY 2009 - $3,031,000
FY 2010 - $3,081,000 (an increase of $50,000)
Q: Will DOL be posting more detailed budget documentation and justification for each agency as it did for the FY 2009 budget? When will it be available? Thanks you.
Thank you for your interest in the Department's FY 2010 budget.
Yes, beginning at 1 p.m. today, the Department's detailed FY 2010 budget documents are available on our website (www.dol.gov). We hope you find them useful.
Q: How will your programs and administration of the Labor Department differ from the previous administration?
I am delighted that you now head this important Department!
Warm regards, Peter
Thank you for your kind words. I am delighted and honored to be the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
As you know, each administration has its own priorities and policy agenda. My priorities for the Department’s FY 2010 budget include promoting a “green” recovery, beginning to restore the capacity of our worker protection programs to vigorously carry out their mission, ensuring that our programs are transparent and accountable, and promoting diversity and stakeholder inclusion in every aspect of the Department. I look forward to working on this ambitious agenda.
Q: Please discuss the president's proposed budget for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and how you plan to reverse years of neglect that kept this agency from doing its job.
A:The president is requesting $353,693,000, an increase of $6,690,000 above the fiscal year 2009 appropriated level for the Mine Safety and Health Commission (MSHA). That amount represents a 6.5 percent increase above the FY 2009 request. The budget includes $1.3 million and 15 full time employees in new funding to strengthen the agency’s metal and nonmetal enforcement program. The request level will allow MSHA to vigorously enforce safety and health laws and complete its inspection mandate.
Q: My question to you: How will you ensure that union members, who comprise the American workforce, throughout the country are adequately protected from unscrupulous individuals if you are decreasing the budget of the one agency that has the ability to ensure the democratic process and financial integrity of labor unions?
A: The Department will maintain its commitment to ensuring union democracy, transparency, and the lawful use of labor union monies.
The Department’s FY 2010 Budget seeks to build on the prior successes of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) while ensuring that it is appropriately funded in light of its core mission. For FY 2010, the Administration requested continuing services request level total of $40,557,000. At this level OLMS will accomplish its core program mission and continue to advance the employee protections programs and the mission of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). OLMS was provided an additional $581,000 over 2009 and 2010 to support its employee protections programs in certifying grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). OLMS’ staffing levels will be returned to essentially the same levels it maintained in fiscal years 2001, 2002, and 2003. During this period, OLMS maintained vigorous and effective enforcement of the law.
Q: Employers are using the recession as an excuse to run roughshod over labor laws and worker rights lately, everything from not adhering to notice under the WARN Act to not paying earned wages. Given the recent GAO report that showed the DOL's wage and hour unit was largely unresponsive and gave bogus information to employees regarding their rights, will the budget include extra funding to beef up the unit to help employees better in the future? Exactly what will change? Will there be more DOL workers, a new website, an easier way for workers to find out their rights, etc.?
A: The Department of Labor has neither investigative nor enforcement authority under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. However, what the WARN Act requires is that employers with 100 or more full-time employees (not counting workers who have less than six months on the job) provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff affecting 50 to 499 employees (excluding part-time), if these employees represent 33 percent of the active workforce at a single employment site during any 30- or 90-day period. Not all dislocations require a 60-day notice; WARN makes certain exceptions to the requirements when layoffs and plant closings occur due to faltering companies, unforeseen business circumstances and natural disasters.
I take the issues that were raised by the Government Accountability Office audit regarding past Wage and Hour Division enforcement very seriously. As secretary of labor, I am committed to ensuring that every worker is paid at least the minimum wage, those who work overtime are properly compensated, child labor laws are strictly enforced, and every worker is provided a safe and healthful environment. The department's Wage and Hour Division already has begun the process of adding new investigators to its field offices to refocus the agency on these enforcement responsibilities. In addition, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the agency will hire investigators to ensure that contractors on stimulus projects are in compliance with the applicable laws. The president’s FY 2010 request includes an increase of $30,862,000 and 288 full time employees (FTEs), the large majority of which will be investigators. When combined with the ongoing hiring, the FY 2010 requested increase in FTEs will bring the Wage and Hour Division back to pre-FY 2001 investigator staffing levels.
Q: I have a question ... when will the non-ARRA state allocations for 09-10 WIA, W-P program funding be announced?
A: We expect to announce the FY2009 state allocations for the Workforce Investment Act by the end of the week.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis here.
Thanks for joining us for this live Web chat on the US Department of Labor’s budget. I’m at my computer and ready to take your questions. We already have several, so I’m going to post some now. The screen will refresh periodically as new questions and answers come up.
So, let’s begin!