On party-line vote, NH Senate OKs boost in job training funds

Money would be tripled for programs

On a 14-10 party-line vote, the NH Senate on Thursday backed tripling the amount the state spends on job training, overriding Republican objections that the increase is unnecessary and would jeopardize the state’s unemployment trust fund, eventually raising the rate that employers will pay into it.

Actually, the bill includes a slight decrease in the unemployment insurance tax rate while increasing job training support from $2 million to $6 million with funding from the unemployment trust fund.

Currently, the training funds are divided between WorkReadyNH, which helps those who are chronically unemployed with soft job-seeking skills, and the Job Training Fund, a matching grant that businesses apply for to upgrade the occupational skills of their existing workforce.

But the bill leaves it up to the Department of Business and Economic Affairs to determine how to spend the funds, in conjunction with the Governor’s Workforce Innovation Board.

One program mentioned in the bill involves the Sector Partnership Initiatives, through which industry leaders from five economic sectors – technology, manufacturing, healthcare, construction and hospitality – works with the Community College system of New Hampshire to develop training programs specific to their workforce needs. The federal funds that support that program are expected to run out in June.

“Every week there are thousands of job openings in our state due to a gap in training opportunities,“ said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, D-Manchester. The increase in funding, he said, “will help attract, train, retain and retrain employees, expanding opportunities for the people of New Hampshire and giving businesses what they are desperately seeking—qualified workers.”

But Republicans lambasted the bill, arguing that there are numerous programs already dealing with job training. Indeed, the training fund balance itself has increased to over $5 million because not all the money appropriated in the past four years has been spent.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, called the bill “unnecessary.”

The Senate did amend the bill to include language about lapsing unspent money back into the unemployment trust fund, a policy advocated by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. The BIA also sought triggers so that funding to the programs stops if the unemployment trust fund sinks to a point that might mean an increase in the unemployment insurance tax rate. But that didn’t get into the Senate version. The BIA still supported the bill because it says it could help alleviate the state’s ongoing workforce shortage.

But Republicans argued that spending more money won’t help.

Instead, as Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, hey said, the state should “improve the efficiency of the job training programs that already exist.”  

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