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Warner introduces bill to boost workforce training

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bob Casey (D-PA), reintroduced legislation to promote workers’ long-term economic success and support U.S. economic recovery efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Investing in American Workers Act of 2021 prioritizes workers in U.S. recovery efforts by creating a tax credit to incentivize employers to invest in training tied to recognized postsecondary credentials for lower- and moderate-income workers.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA), Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN).

“As too many families know, the COVID-19 crisis has taken a major toll on the American workforce, pushing millions of workers into unemployment and decimating jobs that, frankly, may never come back. That’s why we need companies – especially those that employ a lot of low-wage workers – to be equal partners in the recovery effort by stepping in and offering training opportunities that grow workers’ skills for years to come,” said Sen. Warner. “We’re introducing a bill that builds upon the success of the R&D tax credit model and gives companies an incentive to invest in people, like they do R&D, to give more workers a chance to succeed during and after COVID-19.”

“In Michigan, our workers are the best in the world and investing in them is the right thing to do. Our bipartisan bill does just that by supporting employers who offer training opportunities that grow workers’ skills for years to come,” said Sen. Stabenow.

“Today’s fast-paced economy demands regular training for our workforce to keep our economy competitive, yet the percentage of American workers receiving employer-sponsored and on-the-job training has decreased dramatically in recent decades,” said Rep. Krishnamoorthi. “The Investing In American Workers Act will ensure our workers are able to develop the in-demand skills they need to build rewarding careers while helping American companies grow and thrive.”

“The success of our nation’s economic recovery depends on the success of our workforce. But in Central Virginia and across the country, many working families continue to experience significant hardships due to the COVID-19 crisis — and many workers cannot independently afford the skills and training they need to access new opportunities, secure better-paying jobs, and gain peace of mind. In this climate, we need to celebrate and reward companies that make an effort to take care of their employees,” said Rep. Spanberger. “By providing tax incentives for American companies to invest in American workers, the Investing in American Workers Act is commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would recognize in-house workforce training as a key component of our country’s rebound. I’d like to thank my fellow Virginian Senator Warner for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to move this legislation forward.”

“Business owners know their employees’ success is their success and they are committed to helping their employees improve their skills to advance and grow in their career. The Investing in American Workers Act helps employers invest in job training, apprenticeships, and continuing education by providing a tax credit for training expenses driving more investment to close the skills gap, advance careers, and ultimately grow the small businesses that drive our economy,” said Rep. Meuser.

“A four-year college degree isn’t the only pathway to prosperity, nor is it the only way to acquire the skills needed to be successful. When a company invests in high-quality skills and workforce training programs for their employees, both the company and the worker succeed,” said Rep. Axne. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Investing in American Workers Act to encourage companies to get their workers the skills they need to thrive in the modern economy.”

“Now is the time to invest in our workforce and incentivize job training, especially for lower and middle-income workers, ” said Rep. Wild. “The Investing in American Workers Act of 2021 does just that and builds off a proven model of success to create the dynamic workforce our modern economy requires while bringing in valuable industry partners along the way. The pandemic and subsequent economic crisis has devastated families across Pennsylvania, and I’m proud to support this effort to get more Americans back to work in the good-paying jobs of the future.”

“A four-year college degree should not, and cannot, be the only path to a successful career or financial security. This bipartisan legislation will promote apprenticeships and build a stronger American workforce. Although our nation continues to face a skills-gap, on-the-job educational and technical training opportunities will help us bridge the divide while giving Americans opportunities to advance their careers. I am proud to join Rep. Krishnamoorthi in this effort to ensure Americans have access to good-paying jobs when they need it more than ever,” said Rep. Emmer.

Right now, many companies have almost no direct financial incentive to invest in their workers. In fact, the current U.S. tax code offers a Research and Development (R&D) tax credit for employers that make long-term investments in innovation – such as computers, buildings, and machines – but not workers. In order to ensure the nation’s workforce is better prepared for a post-pandemic 21st century economy, tax and accounting systems need to be updated to promote these same kinds of investments in workforce training.

The Investing in American Workers Act of 2021 would make it easier for companies to invest in training their workers by:

  • Establishing a tax credit for employers who increase their spending on worker training:

o   Employers who spend more on training their workers in a given year than they have on average in the previous three years are eligible to receive a tax credit based on their increase in spending.

o   The amount of the credit is equal to 20 percent of the increased spending. The spending eligible for the credit must be used to provide qualified training to employees earning $82,000 or less per year.

o   For employers who are new to spending on qualified training or have a gap in any of the past three taxable years, the credit is calculated as 10 percent of the qualified training expenditures for the current year, multiplied by a cost-of-living adjustment factor. Requires collecting and reporting of racial, ethnic, and gender demographics.

  • Incentivizing high-quality training by detailing allowable providers and programs:

o   Qualified training may be provided through a nationally or state-recognized registered apprenticeship program; a WIOA-certified training program; a program conducted by an area career and technical education school, community college, or labor organization; or a program sponsored or administered by an employer, industry trade association, industry or sector partnership, or labor organization.

o   Qualified training must result in the completion of a recognized postsecondary credential, including an industry-recognized certificate or certification, a certificate of completion of an apprenticeship, a license recognized by the State or Federal Government, or an associate or bachelor’s degree.

  • Pursuing clarity on the statutory definition of recognized postsecondary credential:

o   Requires the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to issue regulations or guidance on the definition of “recognized postsecondary credential” within one year.

  • Encouraging small businesses to upskill their workers by providing a simplified filing process and allowing them to apply the credit against payroll and alternative minimum taxes:

o   Qualified small businesses making less than $5,000,000 for at least six years in a row, as well as qualified tax-exempt entities, can elect to apply up to $250,000 of the credit against payroll taxes.

“The world of work is changing at a rapid pace and Workday believes a focus on skills is essential to providing workers and employers the agility they need to navigate these changes. We appreciate the reintroduction of the Investing in American Workers Act, helping support the workers who need it most with access to reskilling and providing employers with even more incentive to invest in their most valuable asset: their people,” said Rich Sauer, Workday Chief Legal Officer and Head of Corporate Affairs.

“U.S. businesses – including small and medium sized employers – are investing every day in the skills of their workforce, helping their employees advance their careers and creating new job opportunities in our communities. But today’s tax code doesn’t adequately reward those companies that are willing to make these critical investments, making it harder for businesses to compete in a global economy,” said Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs for the National Skills Coalition. “Sen. Warner’s and Rep. Krishnamoorthi’s legislation is an important step in the right direction, and will help expand high quality training that leads to better results for companies and workers alike. We look forward to working with Senator Warner and Rep. Krishnamoorthi to advance this legislation and we applaud his leadership and vision on this vital issue.”

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken advocate of investing in workers and ensuring they are adequately equipped to participate in the 21st century labor force. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner released the first two parts of his 3-part white paper series on the future of American capitalism, which focuses on what the U.S. will need to do to address the chronic under-investment in workers and create an inclusive 21st century economy that does not leave workers behind. Part one of the white paper is available here. Part two is available here.

Bill text is available here. A summary of the bill is available here.


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