01 March 2011

The future of Michigan Works relies on Senate's budget decision

Michigan Works, the statewide agency for work force development, could possibly be shut down if a proposed budget by the U.S. House of Representatives is passed, according to a story at the Lansing State Journal.

The budget proposal is awaiting the Senate's approval; both sides continue to seek a budget agreement to maintain the government's funding. In the instance that a measure is not passed within the next few days, the government's funding will cease as of March 4.

The proposal passed by the House would cut over $3.6 billion in funding for the Workforce Investment Act after July 1. In addition, the budget proposal will rescind $175 million for the current year. Michigan Works, which aids about 3 million residents in Michigan, relies heavily on that act for financial support. The agency assists all types of prospective employees and hiring organizations in sectors ranging from auto transport services to manufacturing and production.

So what direction could the state's unemployed residents take for work force development and retraining?

Currently, many of those individuals won't be able to rely on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for help. This program, which offers extended training, additional unemployment benefits and health care assistance to workers who lost their jobs due to foreign competition, expired in January. As of now, Congress is deadlocked about the program's renewal.

"Democrats are pushing to restore funding, while Republicans want the White House to move on three trade deals before signing on." according to the Detroit News.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) and Rep. Gary Peters (D- Bloomfield Township) are pushing a vote on the measure, however the vote has not been scheduled.

The states Governor, Rick Snyder, has signed a letter to the Senate inquiring that the Michigan Works program be extended.

In the case of federal funding cuts, continuing the program that partially funds retraining efforts under the state's No Worker Left Behind program "becomes a big challenge because of the budget situation we're in," Snyder told The News.

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