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 House Jobs Bill Includes Major Funding for Public Institutions of Higher Education, Including Community Colleges 

12/16/2009

The Democratic leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives have unveiled the "Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010," a $154 billion package that includes funding for a number of initiatives aimed at creating or retaining jobs and extends unemployment insurance and other crucial safety net programs. The House is expected to vote on this legislation today, December 16. Senate prospects are unclear—action is not likely until next year.

The bill redirects $75 billion originally authorized for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) for investments intended to immediately alleviate the unemployment situation. $48 billion of these funds would go to various infrastructure improvement projects, some of which might provide opportunities for community colleges.

Most significantly, $23 billion is dedicated to the Education Jobs Fund. These funds would go to the states under provisions established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Of the funds that go to the states, at least 95% must be allocated to elementary, secondary and public higher education to help retain and provide on-the-job training to existing employees, and hire new employees to provide educational or related services or for modernization, renovation and repair of facilities.

Governors would have discretion on how to allocate these funds within the states, but would be required to do so in proportion to any reductions in state funds for elementary and secondary education and public institutions of higher education. (The exact time period referred to in these "reductions" is unclear.) States would not be required to make the same assurances required by ARRA. In order to receive funds in FY 2010, a state would either have to maintain the same level of education funding in FY2010 as it did in FY 2009, or maintain its FY 2006 level, provided that the percentage of available state revenues dedicated to education spending be maintained if any future cuts to the level of such spending were made. For FY 2011, a state would have to maintain its FY 2009 education spending or maintain state support for education of at least the same percentage of available revenues as it did in FY 2010.

The Jobs Act also provides $1.25 billion of additional funding for Department of Labor (DOL) training programs. $500 million of this total would be earmarked for summer youth employment programs and $750 million would go to competitive grants for worker training in high growth and emerging industry sectors. Of that latter total, $275 million would go to "green jobs," $225 million specifically for the Pathways Out of Poverty program. For the remaining funds, DOL would give priority to training for jobs in the health care sector.

Finally, the bill provides $300 million for the Federal Work-Study program.

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