December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Tell Congress to Support Funding for Critical CTE Programs



Action Alert: Tell Congress to Support Funding for Critical CTE Programs 
With government funding set to run out on November 17, congressional appropriators in the House and Senate are working toward completing the appropriations process for fiscal year (FY) 2024, including passing legislation funding critical job training and technical education programs. 
The Senate’s FY24 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill, which funds education and workforce development programs and was approved by the Committee in July, includes a $40 million increase for the Perkins Basic State Grant program. This program is a critical part of providing high-quality CTE for learners across America. The bill also provides $2.9 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act formula grants and $290 million for Registered Apprenticeships.
While the House has yet to pass its version of the FY24 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill out of the Appropriations Committee, the proposed bill includes deep cuts to the Departments of Education and Labor while containing only level funding for Perkins.   
Job recruitment, training, and placement as well as advanced technical education are critical to the future of manufacturing in America. The House and Senate remain far apart in terms of total spending levels, and it is critical that you contact your members of Congress today. While the government needs to bring spending under control, investing in the manufacturing workforce increases productivity, generates additional tax revenues, and provides Americans with family-sustaining careers.
Click here to contact your members of Congress TODAY and urge them to enact an FY24 spending bill that provides the resources small businesses need for training programs and raises awareness of manufacturing careers available.

Delay to Phase 3 Truck Rule Possible
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) timeline for releasing the “phase 3” greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty trucks may be delayed, according to sources familiar with the agency’s development of the rule. 
The proposed rule was first issued in April after the EPA abandoned a plan to issue a supplemental GHG proposal for medium- and heavy-duty trucks for MY27-29 to consider stronger GHG standards in response to the passage of truck electrification incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The draft phase 3 GHG rule, which would impose more stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards on trucks, such as delivery vehicles, school buses, dump trucks, and tractor trailers, was released along with a proposed rule covering passenger cars, light trucks, and some medium-duty vehicles setting new multi-pollutant standards for model years (MY) 2027 to 2032. The phase 3 rule starts with revisions to certain MY27 standards, while also issuing new standards for MY28-32. 
While the phase 3 regulation was expected to be finalized by the end of the year, EPA officials are now aiming at issuing the rule sometime in March 2024. This delay could allow the truck GHG and light-duty rules to be issued simultaneously.  


Senate Republicans Offer Carbon Border 'Fee' Legislation
Senate Republicans have introduced a bill to impose import fees on foreign polluters. The "Foreign Pollution Fee Act" would assess tariffs based on the greenhouse gas intensity of a category of imports as compared to U.S. emissions for the same product. Imports from countries that are within 10 percentage points of U.S. emissions would pay no charges, while the levies would grow the more a given country exceeds the U.S. baseline.
The legislation, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), aims to shift the production of certain products to domestic sources or cleaner foreign producers with the fee rate set to ensure the imports of a given product are initially, on average, no more than 50 percent more pollution-intense than the U.S. This pollution intensity difference ramps down to no more than 25% and then 10 percent over time. The bill also includes a mechanism for U.S. trade officials to strike partnerships with individual countries under certain conditions. 
Covered sectors include aluminum; biofuels; cement; crude oil; glass; hydrogen, methanol and ammonia; iron and steel; lithium-ion batteries; minerals; natural gas; petrochemicals; plastics; pulp and paper; refined petroleum products; solar cells and panels; and wind turbines.


IPEF Ministerial Meeting Set for Next Week
Following the start of the seventh Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity negotiating round taking place this week in San Francisco, CA, a ministerial meeting has been set for November 13-14, 2023. The IPEF negotiating round is set to end as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit begins, also in San Francisco. 
The IPEF includes 13 countries in addition to the U.S.: Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In September, the 13 members agreed on the key outlines for negotiating four major "pillars" of a future agreement, including trade, supply chain resilience, green energy and environmental standards, and anti-corruption and tax measures.
The 14 IPEF framework partners expect to complete the clean economy and fair economy pillars by the completion of the ministerial meeting, but it is unclear if negotiations on the trade pillar will conclude. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has announced, however, that members would announce "concrete and tangible outcomes,” regarding trade even if talks on aspects of the pillar extend beyond the ministerial. 


IRS Issues New Guidance on Employee Retention Credit
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a memo on November 3, 2023, offering targeted guidance regarding the requirements to be considered an eligible employer for purposes of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). 
To qualify for the ERC, an employer must have been subject to a qualifying government order related to COVID-19 that caused a full or partial shutdown of their business. The government order could be at the local, state, or federal level. In the memo, the IRS clarifies that OSHA communications are not “orders” for ERC purposes, stating “generally, communications from OSHA are not considered ‘orders from an appropriate governmental authority that limit commerce, travel, or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).’”
While OSHA provided numerous interpretive guidance during the COVID-19 regarding pre-existing standards and the General Duty Clause as well as general recommendations, the agency did not impose any mandates or new obligations for employers that could be considered an “order.”
The memo does note, however, that if any of the OSHA guidance or recommendations were incorporated into an order from an appropriate governmental authority, such as at the state or local level, and the implementation of that guidance resulted in the full or partial suspension of business, then the employer would be eligible to claim the ERC. 
In September, the IRS instituted an immediate moratorium on processing new ERC claims amid an influx of claims and increased concerns over fraud. The halt in processing claims will last through at least the end of 2023.