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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 803, Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2013-03-14

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, the ongoing problem with this Republican majority is their insistence on partisan political ploys at the expense of sound policy. It's their way or the highway, and this is a good example. This bill should be a bipartisan bill. This bill should have brought both sides together for the common goal of putting people back to work.

    The bill we are considering today, the so-called SKILLS Act, doesn't in any way, shape, or form reflect bipartisanship. Instead of bringing a bill to the floor that will help our economy prosper and grow jobs, instead of bringing a bill to the floor where there's bipartisanship, this majority has given us a bill that, quite frankly, will gut job training programs.

    This is not a good bill. In fact, it does real harm to job training programs that will help put Americans back to work. And I'm particularly alarmed by the bill's egregious cuts to the SNAP Education and Training program.

    The SKILLS Act would destroy the SNAP Education and Training program as we know it. It would kill a program that provides low-income individuals with the training they need to get jobs, jobs that pay enough to get them off of public assistance. And here is the deal: the SNAP Education and Training program works; it actually works.

    The author of this bill, my colleague on the Rules Committee, Dr. Foxx, does not take a meat-ax to this program but, instead, cleverly reworks it in a way so that, while it will exist in name, it will not be able to carry out its mission. Rather than going directly at the program and reducing or zeroing out the program funding, the bill instead eliminates the role of the SNAP agency in determining what kinds of services are provided to SNAP participants.

    Under its SKILLS Act, the WIA board is authorized to serve ``eligible SNAP participants.'' The way this would appear to work is that the State SNAP agency would still assign some group of participants to SNAP Education and Training programs, but only to those programs as provided through WIA.

    {time} 1610 And here's the concern: the concern is that a good number of States, including my home State of Massachusetts, have found the WIA services to be inappropriate for SNAP recipients.

    The fact is, Mr. Speaker, childless, unemployed adults generally cannot participate in SNAP for more than 3 months out of every 3 years unless they are enrolled in certain types of training programs for 20 hours per week.

    In this legislation, workforce investment boards are not required to provide work slots that meet these conditions, and State SNAP agencies are no longer able to provide additional services. As a result, if jobs are not available, some poor individuals who are willing to work could lose their SNAP benefits. They could lose their food benefits.

    According to the Government Accountability Office: Many SNAP participants are not ready for many program services such as training classes offered by programs at the WIA one-stops because they lack basic skills, such as reading and computer literacy, that would allow them to use their services successfully.

    At best, Mr. Speaker, low-income individuals on SNAP who are lacking job skills that will help them get off public assistance will be denied access to job-training programs. But here's the kicker: at worst, low- income individuals who rely on SNAP to put food on their table will either see part or all of their benefit cut.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker, just when you think things couldn't get worse for poor people in this country, this new legislation could actually make hunger worse.

    Mr. Speaker, this is a bad bill that does nothing to help the American economy or the unemployed or the untrained in this country. We should be focusing on jobs, not partisan legislation.

    [[Page H1410]] This is an area where we should be able to come together, as my colleague, Mr. Polis, said. This is yet another attack on poor people. We should be working to end hunger now and not passing bills that make hunger worse.

    I'll conclude as I began, Mr. Speaker, by saying that this is one of those opportunities that I think the American people believe that we could come together. Unfortunately, this has become a partisan ploy, another partisan press release.

    This bill is going nowhere, and I regret that very much because unemployed people need help.

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