April 15, 2021

Washington Wire: House and Senate Hold Briefings on Short-Term Training Programs


House and Senate Both Hold Briefings on Pell Grants Covering Short-Term Training Programs  

Before leaving on summer recess, the House and Senate conducted briefings on the value of college programs that offer short-term job training. Specifically, the need to expand Pell Grant eligibility to such technical training programs by passing the “Jumpstart our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act of 2019,” endorsed by One Voice. Currently, Pell Grants only cover job training programs of at least 600 hours or 15 weeks in length. The JOBS act will reduce the threshold to an eight-week, 150-hour program in an effort to attract qualifiable candidates into careers like manufacturing.
Job recruitment, training, and placement, as well as advanced technical education, are critical to the future of manufacturing in America. The JOBS Act is an essential step in eliminating barriers to affordable postsecondary short-term skills and job training programs. This vital legislation will make Pell Grants more accessible for students seeking job training and opportunities and help fill the skills gap faced by manufacturing employers. One Voice will continue working with legislators to pass the JOBS act and encourages manufacturers to click here to contact their Representatives today and ask them to cosponsor this important legislation.



Department of Labor Releases Final Rule on Association Retirement Plans
On July 29, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule making it easier for small businesses to offer 401K retirement savings plans to their workers. A proposed rule was first introduced in October 2018 in response to President Trump’s August 2018 Executive Order 13847 directing DOL to address the issue. Modeled after the Administration’s rule on Association Health Plans (AHPs), the regulation clarifies the meaning of “employer” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to include employer groups or associations and Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) for the purpose of workplace retirement savings plans. As “employers,” employer groups, associations, and PEOs can sponsor defined contribution retirement plans. These plans are being called Multiple Employer Plans (MEP).
Within the rule, the DOL included data from a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey which found that 23% of all full-time, private sector workers do not have access to a workplace retirement plan. When part-time employees are included, this figure increases to 32%. Additionally, only 53% of workers at private sector firms with 100 or fewer employees were offered a retirement plan compared to 89% at firms with 500 or more employees in 2017. The DOL also cited a Pew survey which found that 37% of small and medium-sized businesses that do not offer a retirement plan were deterred from doing so by high costs. As stated by the Department, the goal of this rule is to expand access to MEPs, reduce the administrative costs of retirement plan establishment and maintenance, and encourage the creation of more plans for small businesses. The final rule is set to go into effect on September 30.



European Union Proposes to Classify Cobalt as a Hazardous Substance
The European Union’s (EU) Chemicals Agency has proposed to classify cobalt as a hazardous substance, classifying the metal as a category 1B carcinogen. Under this classification, all products containing greater than or equal to 0.1 percent of cobalt will classify as containing carcinogens, likely requiring a label.
In response to the proposal, the United States submitted a statement to the World Trade Organization (WTO) calling on the EU to postpone reclassifying cobalt. The U.S. statement to the WTO says: "We do not understand why the Commission is rushing towards a restriction on the presence of cobalt in metal compounds." It asks the European Commission to "consider delaying" the regulations while it reviews comments provided by governments and industry and while further testing is done to determine the potential hazards of cobalt in metal compounds. The U.S. statement to the WTO follows similar concerns raised by Australia, Mexico, the Philippines and Russia.



EPA Proposes Revisions to New Source Review Permitting Process
On August 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a proposed rule clarifying whether a New Source Review (NSR) preconstruction permit is required when an existing power facility plans to upgrade and deploy the latest energy efficient technologies. Administrator Wheeler stated the new rule “is an important step towards President Trump’s goal of reforming the elements of NSR that regularly discouraged facilities from upgrading and deploying the latest energy efficient technologies.”
Currently, to obtain an NSR permit, it must be determined whether a proposed project will cause a significant emissions increase. If the proposed project causes a significant emissions increase, the next step requires a complex calculation to determine whether overall emissions will increase, when accounting for all other emissions increases and decreases that may have occurred at the facility over the last several years, even if said emissions are unrelated to the proposed project. To bypass this complex calculation, the EPA’s proposed clarification seeks to determine both projected emissions increases and decreases of a proposed project before moving to the second step of NSR permitting. By providing a more accurate accounting of emissions in the first step of NSR permitting, the EPA will provide a more accurate emissions accounting while also reducing the regulatory process and costs.