Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Testimony of Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Before the Subcommittee on Labor,
Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
March 23, 2010
Chairman Harkin, Vice Chairman Cochran, members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to discuss our FY 2011 budget request.
I would like to review selected highlights of my testimony with you.
- First, it is not possible to discuss next year's budget without acknowledging the immediateneed to put Americans back to work.
- I am proud of the work we have done with Recovery Act resources, including the assistance we provided the unemployed through UI and COBRA benefits, the creation of nearly 318,000 summer jobs, and the training opportunities we created, particularly in health careers and for jobs in the new green economy.
- While these efforts are helping, they are clearly not enough. At 9.7 percent, unemployment remains persistently and unacceptably high.
- I know that you have been working hard to reach consensus on measures that will allow us to continue to assist Americans until the labor market fully recovers.
- There have clearly been some set-backs, but as my testimony indicates, I hope that we can commit $1.2 billion to ensure a robust summer jobs program this year, and I want to thank Senator Murray, and Chairman Harkin for their work on this issue... and pledge to work with you to get this done soon!
- I would also like to see us:
- jump-start employment through a $500 million investment in on-the-job training,
- and add funding to further support our oversubscribed training programs.
We then need to sustain those investments through programs that give workers the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century economy. I want to highlight some of the measures in our budget request that will accomplish that goal:
- For the first time in over a decade the budget proposes a significant increase in funding for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs.
- As you know, my team has been pleased to work closely with you and your staff on the process of WIA reauthorization.
- Following our approach in that process, the additional resources we are requesting for WIA are inextricably linked to reform through the establishment of two new WIA Innovation Funds.
- The budget also requests an increase of $45 million for the Green Jobs Innovation Fund.
- I can tell you from our experience with Recovery Act competitions that the demand for this training is enormous.
- Additional resources will allow us to meet this demand, connecting trainees with jobs by requiring that grantees work with employers to ensure that participants gain the skills and industry-recognized credentials that will help them move into better, higher-paying jobs.
- And, Mr. Chairman, based on the approach that you championed this year, two DOL agencies ETA and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will continue to receive $12 million each to continue their joint Disability Employment Initiative to increase the capacity of the One-Stop system to provide accessible services to individuals with disabilities.
I know you understand that it can be too easy to exploit workers when jobs are scarce. We need to remain vigilant in protecting the rights and safety of workers.
- The FY 2011 budget continues that vigilance by hiring additional enforcement personnel. We build upon the resources you provided last year to return our worker protection programs to the FY 2001 staffing levels or greater, after years of decline.
- To do so, the request includes $1.7 billion and 10,957 FTE for worker protection. This funding level is $67 million, or 4 percent, above last year's level, and the agency by agency details are in my prepared testimony.
- To reinvigorate our regulatory agenda, the request for worker protection includes increases to support the development of regulations in areas such as pensions and worker health and safety.
The budget also contains an important interagency effort to address employee misclassification.
- Workers wrongly classified as independent contractors are denied critical benefits and protections to which they may be entitled as employees, including overtime, health coverage, workers' compensation, family and medical leave, and unemployment insurance.
- In addition, misclassification results in billions of dollars of losses to the government through unpaid taxes.
- Our budget includes $25 million to hire additional enforcement personnel targeted at misclassification and to fund competitive grants to help states to address this problem.
Restoring our economy requires ensuring the world economy is sound and balanced.
- I firmly believe that our responsibility to promote acceptable conditions of work abroad is closely linked to our worker protection agenda at home.
- It is with that goal in mind that we are requesting an additional $22 million for ILAB to increase the monitoring of labor provisions of trade agreements including provisions related to child labor and to support programs to improve labor rights for workers in our trading partner countries.
Before I conclude, I want to say a few words about our commitment to ensuring accountability for the resources you entrust to us. That is why my testimony links investments to performance outcomes, and why we have a new commitment to program evaluation.
Members of the Subcommittee, we all know that too many Americans are ready and willing to work but cannot find a job.
The budget before you will help spur new and better job opportunities, while fostering safe workplaces that respect workers' rights.
That is what my goal of Good Jobs for Everyone is all about, and I look forward to working with you to make that vision a reality.
I am happy to respond to any questions that you may have.