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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate Employment, Safety and Training Subcommittee participated today in a hearing of the Senate Labor Committee on job training under the Workforce Investment Act.

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi's statement follows.

Statement of Michael B. Enzi
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Hearing on "Job Training: Helping Workers in a Fragile Economy"
October 4, 2001

Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling this hearing to discuss job training under the Workforce Investment Act.

As the former Chairman and now Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, I have been a strong supporter of the Act. When the legislation was passed in 1998, it was a milestone in the development and delivery of a comprehensive workforce investment system to better serve our nation's workers and employers. Today, in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th and the weakening economy, the Act plays an even more critical role.

The fundamental principles upon which the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act was based included : (1) state and local flexibility, (2) a strong role for local workforce investment boards and the private sector, and (3) streamlining services.

Under WIA, states and localities have increased flexibility. Significant authority is reserved for Governors and local elected officials to implement innovative workforce training programs tailored to meet the needs of the local and regional labor markets. As WIA reflects, state and local governments, not the federal government, are best-positioned to recognize and respond to workforce needs and must be given the room to do so.

WIA creates a public/private sector partnership in the strong role of local workforce investment boards. These local, business-led boards focus on strategic planning and oversight of the local workforce investment system. Local businesses and labor have a direct stake in the effectiveness of the local workforce investment system. They also have direct insight to local workforce data and needs. The active involvement of local business and labor is therefore critical to effective workforce training. WIA recognizes that decisions should be made by those closest to the problem and, therefore, closest to the solution.

WIA was enacted to streamline the fragmented employment and training system previously in place. By integrating services in the "one-stop" delivery system, employment and training services are more accessible for individuals seeking jobs and training as well as the businesses providing the jobs.

These principles of state and local flexibility, public/private partnership, and streamlined delivery were intended to ensure that WIA withstood the test of time. Like so much else in the aftermath of the terrorist attack , this nascent statute is being tested today in a way that was hard to even imagine when the law was enacted. However, I believe that the key principles upon which WIA was built provide a structure for workforce investment in this country that can effectively respond to the challenge.

Whether in a period of economic expansion or contraction, WIA is designed to meet the changing workforce development needs of the time. Through the operation of national emergency grants, WIA also has a mechanism in place to provide assistance to dislocated workers as a consequence of the terrorist attack and subsequent security measures. It is our responsibility to see that there is sufficient funding for WIA to perform the functions for which it was designed.

I have previously expressed serious concerns about the use of workforce investment funds to offset for 2001 supplemental appropriations. previously in existence. There are no longer alternative training programs for dislocated workers to access if we make it impossible for them to access WIA's one-stops by not restoring the recission passed in July.

In my state, this recission would reduce funding for dislocated workers from $555 thousand to $345 thousand. While these numbers might not seem significant to those from larger states, it represents a 38% cut in the funds Wyoming has available to assist those hit by unemployment. This would have a serious adverse impact on the progress we have made in the implementation of WIA.

On top of the substantial recission of FY 2001 funds comes a FY 2002 budget cut at a time when workforce training is needed most. Total state allotments for dislocated worker activities are cut by 6% based on pre-recission numbers. In New York, the state hit hardest by the terrorists attack, the state allotment for dislocated worker activities is reduced by 25%. Wyoming's allotment is reduced by 13%.

Even before the events of September 11th, the proposed recission and budget cuts in WIA funding seemed misguided. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack and ever weakening economy, the recission and budget cut are unfathomable. Now is not the time to undermine the principal mechanism through which workforce training and assistance is delivered. Now is the time to enhance it so that state and local workforce investment boards may provide much-needed assistance to dislocated workers.

I thank you Mr. Chairman