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Courtney Votes to Advance Education and Labor Committee’s Portion of the ‘Build Back Better’ Bill, Includes New Support for Servicemembers, Workforce Investment, Local Schools and Students, and More

September 10, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DCToday, after the completion of a two-day legislative markup session, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and the House Education and Labor Committee voted to advance the committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act, a bill that fulfills the goals laid out in the President’s Build Back Better Plan. The Education and Labor Committee is one of thirteen committees tasked with negotiating portions of the final reconciliation package, with jurisdiction over programs that help grow America’s workforce, support America’s public schools, provide support for childcare and early education, and more. Rep. Courtney is a senior member of the committee, and has successfully secured provisions within the bill that would benefit eastern Connecticut.

The Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act would create historic new programs to ensure all families have affordable child care, to give students access to tuition-free community college, and to boost opportunities for American job-seekers through apprenticeships and other training programs for in-demand industries. The bill also includes provisions to support America’s student-veterans, as well as public schools that serve veteran populations—efforts Rep. Courtney has championed in Congress. The Committee’s bill will be combined with those of the bipartisan committees, and prepared for final consideration by the full House and Senate. Click here to read more.

“The Build Back Better plan is an example of how Congress can work to deliver on behalf of real American workers and families,” said Congressman Courtney. “It doesn’t take an expert to know that American families are feeling more and more squeezed economically, a phenomenon much older than the pandemic. Moms and dads working to pay off decades-old student loans are facing skyrocketing childcare costs, while sending their kids off to schools in desperate need of repair, and coming home to residences they can’t afford to own. We’ve got to do better for American workers and families, and the Build Back Better plan makes them the priority—the bill would finally make childcare more affordable, would provide more training opportunities for high-paying careers, and give more Americans the basic support they need right now to focus on their own lives, livelihoods, and loved ones. The Build Back Better plan is an investment that will help grow America’s economy and our strength of community, and advancement of our reconciliation bill is a key step towards making it final.”

Highlights of the Education and Labor Committee’s Portion of the Build Back Better Act:

New Support for American Families

Nationwide, American families need more financial breathing room. The high cost of childcare is straining family budgets, and it’s hurting America’s economic recovery. The lack of affordable childcare is pushing millions of Americans out of the workforce, and is making t harder for employers to fill job openings. The Build Back Better Act will lower the cost of childcare for working families, expand the availability of high-quality childcare, and raise wages for childcare workers.

  • Universal Affordable Childcare—the Build Back Better Act makes historic investments to lower the cost of childcare for American families, and would ensure that families would pay no more than 7% of their income on childcare. In Connecticut, this is a dramatic improvement for the state’s “Care 4 Kids” program, which is capped at 100% of the state’s median income, with a payment requirement of up to 10%.
  • Support for Childcare Workers—the bill would also supply childcare providers with new resources to raise wages for childcare workers, and expand available supply to serve more children and families.
  • Universal Pre-K Education—the Build Back Better Act invests in securing universal pre-kindergarten education for all three- and four-year old Americans, ensuring that children have the foundation of learning and support that enables them to succeed.

Supporting Students, and Rebuilding America’s Public Schools

Long before the pandemic, chronic neglect of America’s public schools had forced students and teachers across the country to learn and work in outdated, hazardous school buildings. The average American school building is roughly 45 years old. The Build Back Better Act includes new investments to repair deteriorated and outdated K-12 school buildings. The bill also includes for the first time, a program to ensure 2 years of tuition-free community college for millions of Americans, and new support for student-veterans, for special education programming, and for schools that serve high numbers of students from military families—like public schools in Groton and Ledyard.

  • Tuition-free Community College for millions of Americans – The Build Back Better Act creates federal-state partnerships to provide American students access to two years of community college tuition-free. Community Colleges are an important pathway to skills and professional development, but can be out of reach for students otherwise poised to take advantage of them. This program will help build on Connecticut’s investment in community college access and make good on the college promise for millions more.
  • Protections for Schools with Crumbling Foundations—the Build Back Better Act includes historic and long-overdue support to help repair, modernize, and rebuild crumbling and outdated school buildings. The bill would enable public schools to upgrade ventilation systems, improve energy efficiency and climate resiliency, and specifically outlines that schools experiencing structural damage created by pyrrhotite are eligible for funding to repair and rebuild.
  • Increased Support for Children with Disabilities—the bill includes new investments in American special education programming. It increases resources for federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants, which support special education and related services for children with disabilities in grades pre-school through 12. This funding would represent the first time in eight years that the federal share of the cost of providing services to children with disabilities has increased.
  • Fairness for Veteran Students—the Build Back Better Act includes Rep. Courtney’s effort to finally enable American servicemembers to count the full length of their service towards student loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Although they are eligible for PSLF, existing rules prevent many active duty servicemembers from applying their full period of service towards PSLF—meaning they are made to complete a longer period of service before receiving student loan forgiveness. Courtney introduced the Recognizing Military Service in PSLF Act in May to correct this error, and the Build Back Better Act would get the job done.
  • Support for Schools That Serve Military Families—the bill includes increased funding for the Department of Education’s Impact Aid Construction Grants program, which provides support to schools like those in Groton and Ledyard that serve high numbers of students from military and tribal families, and who often operate with less local revenue than other school districts. Rep. Courtney has been a leader in supporting these schools—in 2020, his Impact Aid Coronavirus Relief Act (H.R. 8075) was one of just a handful of COVID-19 relief bills to be signed into law by President Trump; in February, Courtney was selected as Co-Chairman of the bipartisan House Impact Aid Coalition for the 117th Congress.

Growing and Protecting Our Workforce

Public workforce development programs like the eastern Connecticut Workforce Development Board (EWIB) are critical to helping Americans secure good-paying jobs, and ensuring employers have the talent they need to succeed. The pandemic led millions of Americans to consider new careers in emerging and in-demand fields, and the Build Back Better Act makes serious investments in workforce development programs that will help Americans build new skills while still earning a paycheck.

  • Investing in Our Workforce, Expanding Registered Apprenticeships—the Build Back Better Act includes new investments to expand Registered Apprenticeships and other paid job training programs that are targeted to serve young people, support laid-off workers, and to train workers for high-wage occupations. The bill supports many of the workforce investment goals Rep. Courtney helped advance through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and through the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, including provisions to expand Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • Preparing America’s Workforce to Fight Climate Change—the bill also funds new programming through the Department of Labor and AmeriCorps to help train America’s workforce for good-paying jobs in next-generation careers, like emerging fields to help address the climate change crisis.
  • Helping Americans of All Ages to Advance or Change Careers—the bill includes robust investments in adult education and literacy programs, another key aspect of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Build Back Better Act provides new funding to improve and expand adult education and literacy programs that help adults obtain skills necessary for employment, and that lead to marked improvements in economic opportunity for their families.
  • Growing America’s Home Health Care Workforce—the Build Back Better Act includes major new investments to train and grow America’s home healthcare workforce. The bill contains funding to make the direct care field more economically attractive, to recruit and train a new generation of direct healthcare workers, and to implement training-to-career pathways to ensure Americans can access home care when they need it.
  • Protecting America’s Workforce—the bill would also create new protections for American workers. In addition to growing the workforce, the Build Back Better Act would help protect the workforce by increasing OSHA penalties for employers found to be in violation, making them more effective deterrents, and better incentivizing employers to comply with OSHA requirements. This would represent the first time since 1990 that OSHA’s penalties have been increased, and only the second time in the history of OSHA.