WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE) delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on “Jobs and Opportunity: Employer Perspectives on the Jobs Gap.”
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Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning, and welcome to the third hearing in our series focusing on jobs and opportunity. The purpose of these hearings is to demonstrate how, as our economy continues to strengthen following the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employers’ demand for workers is growing and our human services programs can play an important role in supporting the next wave of workers needed to continue this economic growth.
“Millions of Americans are on the sidelines of our economy, and it is vital we understand how taxpayer resources, particularly those under this committee’s jurisdiction, are being leveraged, or not, to address the needs of those struggling to get ahead. With the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program set to expire in September, this Committee must not stand down from its responsibility to reauthorize this program and provide certainty to families, states, and taxpayers.
“Last week we were honored to welcome Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to share the federal government’s perspective. Secretary Acosta told the Committee in his opening remarks how the Department of Labor has been working to keep our economy moving forward because as it fires on all cylinders with the help of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. He said:
“‘At the Department of Labor, we’re creating opportunity for all Americans by expanding apprenticeships across all industries, by streamlining traditional workforce education, and providing state leaders the flexibilities they need to meet the needs of job creators and their local workforces.’
“Secretary Acosta also emphasized the demand from governors for more flexibility to focus funds on where they can best serve the needs of communities. He rightly pointed out: ‘Nebraska is different from California which is very different from Florida.’ And went on to add ‘it’s not just cooperation between the agencies, but also flexibility to allow the governors to focus workforce education funds where they best serve the needs of their states.’
“Two weeks ago, before this subcommittee, we heard about local perspectives from Members’ districts about the challenges they are facing in an economic environment with low unemployment and more than 6 million job openings.
“Three witnesses, including a program participant, testified about a program the Arizona Home Builders Association started to help companies be able to continue to grow as they face a labor shortage.
“The association partnered with Arizona correctional facilities to provide training in construction trades to inmates nearing their release date. These are win-win programs. Companies gain access to a strong labor pool of hardworking individuals and incarcerated men and women are given the purpose and stability of good jobs, reducing recidivism.
“Public policy should have the same goals, but the programs we heard about two weeks ago were created and operated entirely without the use of federal, state, or local funds or programs. At the same time there are more than 40 federal job training programs. States are spending a combined $30 billion a year through TANF and less than half those dollars are being spent on core work activities and supportive services that could help close the jobs gap.
“Today we continue our exploration of the jobs gap – the difference between employers’ demand for workers, shown as job openings, and the declining number of individuals in the workforce, shown as the labor force participation rate.
“Our panel features several larger, national employers across industries, including automotive, manufacturing, chemical and retail. They will each highlight challenges they face in growing their businesses due to a lack of workers, what they are doing to address the jobs gap, and what they believe is the best way to promote more Americans to get back into the workforce.
“Today’s employers may have similar stories as those from our first hearing, but we will be focusing on their business case for investing in workers on the sidelines to get them job ready. We will also learn more about why this moment is different from those in past and the urgency which is needed to address the jobs gap.
“Today, I am excited to learn from our witnesses about their experiences and what has led to their success so we can translate these lessons into better policies for across-the-board victories for American workers, American families, American businesses, and the American economy.”