This Month in Photos: February 2019

This Month in Photos: February 2019

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Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!  February 2019 (PDF)

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at neil@narc.org.

National Conference of Regions: In Photos

National Conference of Regions: In Photos

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Welcome to a special edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!   2019 National Conference of Regions: In Photos (PDF) 

All of the photos in this edition are from NARC’s February National Conference of Regions. Inside you’ll find photos of the NARC members, conference speakers, and members of Congress and the Administration who made this year’s Conference of Regions memorable.

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. This month we’re publishing two editions 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at neil@narc.org.

This Month in Photos: January 2019

This Month in Photos: January 2019

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Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!   January 2019 – February 2019 (PDF)

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at neil@narc.org.

What’s in the President’s Proposal to Reorganize the Federal Government?

This is the first in a series of three blogs dealing with aspects of the president’s federal reorganization plan. It is based, in part, on a recent NARC Wednesday Legislative Briefing that was held on the president’s reorganization plan on Wednesday, August 7.

On June 21, the president released his plan to reorganize certain parts of the executive branch. If adopted by Congress and implemented by the president, it would touch virtually every agency in the federal government and the way Americans receive government services.

The following are proposals that would have the most significant impact on regions:

The Department of Education and the Workforce

The president’s proposal would merge the Departments of Education and Labor into a single department. The new Department of Education and the Workforce would include four separate agencies focusing on four different issue areas: K-12 education, enforcement of worker protections, workforce and higher education, and research and administration.

The American Workforce and Higher Education Administration, one of the four new agencies, would be charged with ensuring U.S. workers possess the skills necessary to succeed on the job. This agency would bring together workforce development programs from the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor and higher education, vocational education, and rehabilitation services from the Department of Education.

The Department of Health and Human Services

The proposal would also reshuffle other domestic agencies and would make it possible, according to the White House, to revamp agencies and, where Congress agrees, reduce funding. Social safety net programs – including housing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare programs from the Department of Health and Human Services, and nutrition programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Association Program (SNAP) from the Department of Agriculture — would be consolidated under a new Department of Health and Public Welfare which would replace the current Department of Health and Human Services.

Other Proposed Changes

If the president’s proposal is adopted and implemented there would be many other potential changes, including:

  • Transferring of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to the Department of Commerce into a new economic development agency (more detail will be provided on this in an upcoming blog post);
  • Privatizing the Postal Service;
  • Creating a government-wide public-private partnership office to “improve services to citizens”;
  • Relocating more staff and offices outside of the National Capital Region (Washington, DC and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs);
  • Consolidating food safety functions into a single office within the Department of Agriculture;
  • Moving USDA’s rural housing activities to the Department of Housing and Development;
  • Shrinking the Office of Personnel Management and sending some of its functions to the Department of Defense;
  • Privatizing the FAA’s air traffic control services and the Saint Lawrence Seaway; and
  • Revamping the Army Corps of Engineers by dividing its functions between the Department of Transportation (navigation) and the Department of the Interior (flood control, wetland permitting, and management of inland waterways).

Why Is this Reorganization Plan Being Proposed Now?

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, a former member of Congress, and a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was the main architect of this plan. As a member of Congress, Mulvaney had argued for merging human services programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among others, under a single umbrella agency. He has also argued strongly that the federal government needs to be streamlined and that past efforts have been unsuccessful. This proposal would allow the administration to create a new umbrella department for all welfare programs. Whether these proposals would streamline government remains to be seen.

Over the next two weeks, in two new blogs, we will explore what it would mean to the future of CDBG to transfer it to a new economic development agency within the Department of Commerce and what the likelihood is that Congress would adopt this or any reorganization plan.

President Seeks to Increase Job Training Opportunities for America’s Unskilled Workers

On Thursday, July 18, the president signed an executive order that creates the Council for the American Worker. Led by the secretaries of commerce and labor, the Council is expected to focus on reorganizing federal workforce development programs and generating funding for new job training initiatives, especially apprenticeships and older worker training.

This initiative comes as business and industry are reporting a shortage of qualified workers to fill the nearly six million job vacancies. Of the 6.6 million Americans who are unemployed, most lack the skills and education to fill current job openings, according to the nation’s business leaders.

According to the White House, twenty-three private-sector companies and trade unions have come together to create up to four million apprenticeships, and retraining and continuing education slots over the next five years. If this effort succeeds, the president and many business leaders believe the current skills shortage among America’s workers can be addressed.

The initiative would also bring together representatives from business and industry, unions, and state governments to examine the range of federal workforce development programs and better align them to meet the labor demands of the private sector.

Unfortunately, the initiative feels a bit like “déjà vu all over again.” The very things that the president has tasked the private and public sectors with in this initiative were what led to the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) and lie at the heart of what local workforce investment boards do every day.

For more than a decade, Congress discussed and debated what needed to be done to ensure that the nation’s workforce system operated effectively. Four years ago, Congress passed and then President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The law received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and passed overwhelmingly (415 – 6 and 95 – 3, respectively).

The result is a system that ensures that:

  • Workforce development areas and labor markets, to the extent feasible, are co-terminus;
  • Workforce development programs provide services to anyone seeking job assistance –veterans, youth, persons with disabilities, dislocated workers, people in poverty, and food stamp recipients, to name just a few;
  • Job search and job training assistance is available through locally-based one-stop workforce centers, which bring together training and support programs from throughout the federal government rather than from one department or funding stream; and
  • Local leaders – both elected and appointed — work with business and industry to identify employer needs and provide the kinds of job training, education, and supportive services through the local one-stop that are necessary to help employers fill job vacancies.

Should we be duplicating or replacing an existing program before we know its impact on local and national employment trends? The desire to reorganize or reimagine the job training system is really part of a larger attempt to cut federal funding for job training programs. And the other question is why establish a jobs council without including local elected and appointed officials who are directly responsible for implementing and operating workforce development programs?

Despite these questions, we should not minimize the importance of this effort. Workers’ wages have decreased over the past forty years, with the most dramatic effect on prime-aged males with limited skills. Their median annual earnings have fallen by twenty-eight percent since 1969. Post-secondary education, healthcare, and childcare are out of reach for a large portion of Americans.  And much of this is tied to the lack of skills of these workers, who often need to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. So, it is clear, something must be done. President Trump’s proposal is in its infancy, and how it plays out will tell us a lot more about what was intended and what is possible. We welcome the administration’s efforts to ensure that all Americans have the skills they need to be productive, working Americans.

House Passes Walden-Led Package to Combat Opioid Crisis

In a bipartisan vote of 396-14, the House passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) – a piece of legislation that combines dozens of opioid-related bills passed over the last two weeks with base text and provisions that passed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill tackles many aspects of the opioid crisis, helping advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improving prevention, and authorizing state and local grants for the establishment or operation of public health labs to detect fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. See this bill summary for further detail.

FEMA’s National Level Exercise 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun its National Level Exercise (NLE) 2018, an event that brings together more than 250 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, private industry, and nonprofit organizations to test their emergency response to a simulated major disaster. Through May 11, these organizations are coordinating together and using established plans, policies, and procedures to prepare for and respond to a Mid-Atlantic hurricane scenario near Hampton Roads, Virginia. FEMA Administrator Brock Long said, “NLE 2018 serves as the culminating effort to exercise the nation’s response capabilities before the 2018 [hurricane] season.” To help your communities prepare as well, please share the following FEMA tips and resources with your residents:

MVRPC Launches New Safety Campaign

The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) launched a new safety campaign focusing on seat belt use, proper child safety-seat use, and safe cycling guidelines. This new effort is in response to recent, staggering statistics that show that only 83% of Ohio motorists wear a seat belt – the lowest rate in five years. MVRPC is also using this safety campaign to prepare motorists and cyclists for the warmer weather, when cyclists are more likely to share the road with vehicles. MVRPC partnered with the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority to display campaign ads on their transit vehicles. Residents will also see ads on poster and digital billboards and the Dayton Daily News.

Lawmakers Push for Program to Improve Urban Flood Hazard Maps

Under the newly proposed bipartisan and bicameral Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2018, cities would gain access to a new grant initiative aimed at improving how the nation assesses and manages flood risk. If implemented, three cities with populations over 50,000 would be selected to participate in the FEMA pilot program every year to help develop better methods for mapping urban flood hazards. It would authorize $1.2 million for FY 2019 and a total of $4.3 million for FY 2020-2022 that could flow to state and local governments. FEMA will use information learned from this pilot program to create best practices and improve their flood risk mapping program.

In Houston, a Focus on Innovation to ‘Build Back Better’

Houston, TX has always had an eye for new technology and innovation. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey; however, local officials learned just how helpful these tools can be during a storm and after when it is time to rebuild. Jesse Bounds, director of innovation for the City of Houston, relayed several examples of the ways Houston residents used technology during and after the storm, including:

  • The local tech community of civic hackers developed ad-hoc technologies to address citizens’ immediate needs;
  • Volunteers used crowdsourcing tools to rescue 7,000 households;
  • Houston-area public agencies used open-sourced platforms and social media websites like Nextdoor to share critical emergency communications; and
  • Houston leaders are currently partnering with The Atlas Marketplace to learn how other cities are building back even better after a natural disaster.