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President's FY 2019 Budget Proposal Signals Cuts to Labor and Employment Funding

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President Trump's budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 indicates the administration intends to scale back the Department of Labor (DOL) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The White House is also interested in crafting a new parent paid leave program administered through the unemployment insurance system, boosting apprenticeship programs, and mandating the use of E-Verify.

Presidential budgets are not set in stone, but typically provide a general idea of where the administration's priorities lie. This proposed budget (pdf) in particular should be read with a grain of salt, as it was drafted before President Trump signed the two-year appropriations deal (H.R. 1892) ending the brief government shutdown, which will necessarily impact funding levels. Putting aside specific budgetary numbers that likely will change over the coming weeks, the following are some highlights from the White House's proposal.

Department of Labor

The proposed budget decreases DOL funding by $2.6 billion (21%). Such drastic cuts, if implemented, would likely impact hiring and enforcement initiatives.

Regarding the paid leave proposal, which was included in the DOL section of the proposed budget, the administration supports a policy whereby workers could receive up to six weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This program would use the current unemployment insurance system as a base, "allowing states to establish paid parental leave programs in a way that is most appropriate for their workforce and economy."

The administration's focus on apprenticeship programs is also reflected in the proposed budget. Approximately $200 million would be invested in apprenticeship programs and the DOL would work to develop a plan to "reorganize and consolidate" the various existing workforce development programs.

Promoting association health plans (AHPs), another administration priority, would be achieved by increased funding for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, which is tasked with developing rules and policies to develop and support such alternative health arrangements.

Personnel Reductions at the NLRB and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Under the budget proposal, the NLRB's funding would decrease by about 9%, resulting in a 7.2% decrease in the number of full-time employees. There are currently about 170 open positions at the NLRB that have not been filled. The NLRB envisioned additional personnel cuts under the current fiscal year but has not implemented such cuts. It is unclear whether the additional reductions resulting from the decreased budget would be in addition to the numbers already targeted for removal.

The EEOC would see a more modest decrease in its funding levels.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Funding for a border wall aside, the budget would boost ICE enforcement by funding 2,000 new officers in fiscal year 2019, double the number of new hires for fiscal year 2018. The budget proposal also calls for "mandatory, nationwide use of the E-Verify system."

Next Steps

While the Office of Management and Budget did include an "addendum" to the budget proposal to address funding proposals from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that ended the most recent government shutdown, the funding levels per agency likely will be further adjusted over time. Congress will need to draft and consider legislation incorporating final amounts, which promises to be a lengthy and protracted process. In the meantime, the budget proposal serves as an indicator of which agencies and programs the administration will focus on in the coming year.

Posted In: Congressional Activity; National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); Department of Labor (DOL); Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE); Executive Branch

Want to know more? Read the full article by Michael J. Lotito at Littler Mendelson

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