Education and Labor Committee FY21 Budget Reconciliation Bill

Legislation | February 10, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

This part of the COVID-19 reconcilation package allocates funding to support services that provide assistance to older Americans and their families, workplace protections for essential workers, elementary and secondary schools, to assist students get back in the classroom, institutions of higher learning, and child care assistance to essential workers.

The reconciliation process instructs 12 House Committees to write proposals that would provide $1.9 trillion in budgetary relief that fulfills the provisions of President Biden’s COVID-19 American Rescue Plan. After 13 hours of debate the House Education and Labor Committee approved the committee’s provisions in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget reconciliation during a February 9 markup. The bill allocates funding to support: services that provide assistance to older Americans and their families; workplace protections for essential workers; elementary and secondary schools, to assist students get back in the classroom; institutions of higher learning; and child care assistance to essential workers. Committee members also supported gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour for at least 25 million American workers, by 2025.

The Education and Labor Committee’s FY21 budget reconciliation package, does the following:

Increases Funding for OAA-related Services for Older Americans. The bill ensures the Elder Justice Act (EJA), a program administered by Administration for Community Living (ACL) that provides protections for residents of long-term care facilities, will receive at least $188 million in funding for fiscal year 2021 and 2022, and $10 million shall be for the long-term care ombudsman program.

An additional $1.4 billion in ACL funding was allocated for programs authorized under the Older Americans Act (OAA), which includes: $750 million to support nutrition programs for older adults and $25 million for Native American’s nutrition programs; $480 million for HCBS supportive services, which includes $44 million for vaccination outreach and coordination. These funds can also be allocated for health promotion and disease prevention and prevention and mitigation activities related to addressing extended social isolation among older individuals, and including investments in technological equipment and solutions. Lastly, there is a $145 million allocation for the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

Administer Worker Protections for Essential Workers. The U.S. Department of Labor is allocated $150 million to make a substantial investment in COVID-19 worker protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is allocated with $75 million of the funds to administer worker protection activities that would address the prevention of safety and health hazards in high-risk sectors, such as health care, meat processing and corrections.

Workers who are eligible for COBRA due to involuntary termination or reduction in hours are eligible to receive coverage under their employment-based health plan with a premium reduction of 85 percent.

Stabilizes the Child Care System. Child care stabilization grants will be allocated $39 billion in grant funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program for operating expenses, personnel costs and mental health supports. Eligible child care providers receiving the funds must also provide relief from copayments to families struggling to cover tuition.

Incrementally increase the Minimum Wage. The package gradually raises the federal minimum wage for employees from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour over an extended period (2021 – 2025). Thereafter, annual increases are indexed to the percentage increase, if any, in the median hourly wages of all employees. The tipped minimum wage and the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities would also be eliminated.

Chairman Bobby Scott’s opening statement at the markup highlighted the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), report that provides cost estimates on legislation that would raise the minimum wage in annual increments by June 2025. The CBO estimates “a $15 minimum wage will lift nearly 1 million people out of poverty and put money in the pockets of 27 million workers, who will accelerate our economic recovery by spending that money in local businesses.” Additionally, according to CBO, “a $15 minimum wage, even after you account for any employment losses, will put an additional net $333 billion into the pockets of low- and middle-income workers, outweighing the cost to the federal government.”