Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require that human capital management information is made publicly available in a timely and accurate manner to help determine whether a company will be successfully able to weather risks following the COVID-19 crisis – a critical issue for investors and the overall economy. In their letter to the SEC, the members of Congress stressed the importance of standardizing the human capital management policies that companies disclose to the public, particularly policies regarding employee engagement and sick leave, investment in training, and administrative controls like cleaning practices, varying work schedules, and protective equipment for workers.

“During these deeply uncertain times, companies and workers face a rapidly evolving set of economic, health, and workforce challenges unimaginable only a few months ago. Now, more than ever, investors and the public should have access to comprehensive, timely, and comparable information related to companies’ human capital management practices,” wrote the lawmakers. “Over the past several months, companies across the country have taken extreme actions to adapt and respond to the evolving workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.  Facing extraordinary operational and financial challenges, different industries and businesses are attempting to weather the crisis in unique ways.”

“Through different responses to their workforce, from layoffs to workplace safety to paid leave, COVID-19 is exposing the myriad ways that company human capital management practices pose operational and reputational risks for short and long-term performance.” they continued. “To standardize what companies disclose to the public, we urge you to provide the guidance necessary to ensure timely and accurate delivery of critical human capital management information to investors.”

In their letter, the lawmakers requested that the SEC finalize and implement proposed modernizations to Regulation S-K and its updates to human capital management reporting requirements, urging that these requirements include quantitative disclosure items with a high value across industries, like total number employees, total wages, turnover rates, spending on employee training opportunities, and whether workers have full-time or contractor status.

Sen. Warner and Rep. Axne have long called for better disclosure practices of human capital management information. They have introduced bicameral legislation to require public companies to disclose basic human capital metrics, including workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, and compensation statistics. Sen. Warner has repeatedly urged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. 

Additionally, 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. Last year, the SEC announced a proposed Regulation S-K rule following advocacy by Sen. Warner, who previously urged the Commission to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Most recently, he sent a letter requesting that the SEC require companies to disclose specific metrics in addition to human capital resources, measures, and objectives.

Text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

The Honorable Jay Clayton 

Chairman

Securities & Exchange Commission

100 F Street, N.E.

Washington, D.C. 20549

Dear Chairman Clayton,

We appreciate the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) efforts to help stabilize markets and protect investors in the face of the extraordinary economic disruption caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  During these deeply uncertain times, companies and workers face a rapidly evolving set of economic, health, and workforce challenges unimaginable only a few months ago.  Now, more than ever, investors and the public should have access to comprehensive, timely, and comparable information related to companies’ human capital management practices.  Indeed, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid example of why human capital management reporting is so critical to carrying out the SEC’s mission to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation.

Over the past several months, companies across the country have taken extreme actions to adapt and respond to the evolving workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.  Facing extraordinary operational and financial challenges, different industries and businesses are attempting to weather the crisis in unique ways.  JUST Capital, for example, has been tracking the responses of the S&P’s 100 largest public companies to their workers and finds wide variation in the policies implemented as well as their disclosure.   Through different responses to their workforce, from layoffs to workplace safety to paid leave, COVID-19 is exposing the myriad ways that company human capital management practices pose operational and reputational risks for short and long-term performance.

To standardize what companies disclose to the public, we urge you to provide the guidance necessary to ensure timely and accurate delivery of critical human capital management information to investors.  This includes, among other things: remuneration across the workforce; employee engagement and sick leave information; investment in training, especially with regard to health and safety preparedness; identification of workforce safety hazards and levels of risk; administrative controls; such as cleaning practices, varying work schedules; and protective equipment for workers, such as masks and gloves.  These issues will be important in determining if companies will be able to open and remain open, a critical issue for investors as well as for the economy as a whole. 

We also urge you to quickly move forward with finalizing the proposed modernizations to Regulation S-K’s human capital management reporting requirements with the following improvements.  Investors and the public should have much-needed, fundamental human capital information to assess a company’s ongoing performance now and in the future.  Finalized metrics should include quantitative disclosure items with a high value across industries, such as total employees, total wages, whether workers are full-time or contractors, turnover and promotion rates, violations of workplace safety regulations, and spending on employee training opportunities.  Disclosure of these critical workforce metrics will better enable investors to assess the impact of future health or economic crises on the company’s workforce, which are material to company performance, investment and voting decisions.

In fact, disclosure of human capital management policies should be part of a whole-of-government economic recovery strategy.  You have noted in the past on calls with SEC Investor Advisory Committee members that “human capital and intellectual property often represent an essential resource and driver of performance for many companies.”   We agree.  Using asset management industry measurement standards such as risk-adjusted returns and means excess returns, researchers find that the S&P 500 firms disclosing their human capital costs are disproportionately the highest performing firms.   This same research finds that intensity of human capital reporting is correlated with greater firm financial performance, a focus on long-term value creation, and a higher return on investment from talent.   The estimated overarching benefits to the economy would vastly outweigh the costs of disclosure.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that investors and the public are well served by a robust human capital management disclosure regime.  As the founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism recently noted in the Financial Times, U.S. financial markets had no form of standardized financial accounting before 1929.   Just as GAAP was urgently adopted after the Great Depression, we strongly believe standardized, comparable metrics of human capital disclosure requirements in the context of this pandemic are critical for investors to accurately measure company performance both now and in the future, which furthers the SEC’s mission to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” 

Thank you for your continued work during these challenging times.  We look forward to working with you on this critical matter. 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined more than 40 of their colleagues to introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is the Senate companion to legislation recently introduced in the House, but makes one important change: increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion. Education groups had originally identified the $2 billion figure believing the crisis would last only through this academic year. As it has become clear that the crisis could last far longer, need has only increased. 

“As a nation, we have a responsibility to make sure that this health crisis does not interfere with our ability to continue providing a quality education to every single child – no matter where they live or how much their parents make,” said Warner. “Students and teachers all over the Commonwealth are doing their best to adapt to this new normal, but it’s up to Congress to provide schools with the funding they need to make sure every child is able to successfully participate in virtual learning. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help schools and libraries afford the additional connectivity resources needed during this pandemic.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has revealed great disparities in our nation, including in our education system,” Kaine said.“Congress must step up to ensure no student, particularly those in low-income households, is left behind as schools transition to online learning. This legislation will support both schools and students with the resources they need to stay connected and focus on their education during this time.” 

The “homework gap” is experienced by 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework. Research has shown that this gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color.  Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science.  This existing inequity has been exacerbated during this current public health emergency as schools suspend in-person classes and transition to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff. 

Specifically, the Emergency Educational Connections Act would:

  1. Provide $4 billion in federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
  2. Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
  3. Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.

As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact of this crisis on our most vulnerable families. Additional funding for E-Rate would greatly narrow the homework gap and help ensure that all students can continue to learn.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE

The legislation was also cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and John Tester (D-MT).

The Emergency Educational Connections Act is supported by the following organizations: AASA The School Superintendents Association, Advance CTE, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO, American Library Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, ASCD, Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), Children's Health Fund, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Committee for Children, Common Sense Media, CoSN - Consortium for School Networking, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Family Centered Treatment Foundation, First Focus Campaign for Children, Girls Inc., IDEA Public Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, KIPP Foundation, Learning Forward, Magnet Schools of America, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Association for Music Education, National Association of Counties (NACo), National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS), National Association of Independent Schools, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Catholic Educational Association, National Center for Families Learning, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Education Association, National Forum to Accelerate, Middle-Grades Reform, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National School Boards Association (NSBA), Parents as Teachers, Public Knowledge, Project Tomorrow, Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK), SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association), Schools Healthy & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), Stand for Children, Teach For America, and The Education Trust. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Trump Administration’s final regulation detailing the responsibilities of elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities for addressing sexual harassment and assault:  

“With regard to the serious issues of sexual assault and harassment, the needs of survivors must come first. The Administration’s failure with this final rule affects students of all ages and is a serious deviation from its responsibility. The rule recklessly violates the intent behind Title IX to ensure educational equity for all students. It inappropriately limits the situations in which schools must act to address sexual misconduct and allows a number of practices that will make campus adjudication processes less supportive of survivors. With so many students away from their physical learning settings due to COVID-19, we may not immediately see the full impact of this misguided regulation. But make no mistake: it undoubtedly makes students less safe.”  

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment free from discrimination because of sex. Over the past two decades, both Democratic and Republican administrations have interpreted the law and provided guidance to encourage survivors to come forward and report – until now. Sexual assault on college and university campuses and in K-12 schools is notoriously underreported and, too often, adjudication processes and survivor support services vary from campus to campus, making fairness and transparency all the more elusive. 

Senator Warner is an original cosponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would establish stronger incentives for all universities, including those in Virginia, to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.  

In January 2019, Sen. Warner laid out his concerns with a previous – though largely similar – version of the Administration’s proposal and called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to go back to the drawing board with her approach. In September 2017, Sen. Warner called the Trump Administration’s decision to review previous guidelines on campus sexual assault a “red flag” and called for Secretary DeVos to prioritize the interests of sexual assault survivors in the rulemaking process. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, applauded $36,475,848 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support Virginia’s five HBCUs. The federal funding was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students, colleges, and universities as they cope with the immediate effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

“We’re pleased that these federal dollars will assist Virginia’s five HBCUs in continuing to serve their students in the face of the current health and economic crisis,” said the Senators. “These institutions help provide traditionally-underserved communities the tools they need to succeed, and we will continue to advocate for them as they support their students during this ongoing crisis.”

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund set aside just over $1 billion in federal funding for HBCUs and minority serving institutions. These institutions can use the funds to cover costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic, such as lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology, faculty and staff training, payroll, and costs of attendance for eligible students.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which will receive federal from the CARES Act as follows:

School

 

Virginia State University

$9,803,132

Virginia Union University

$2,922,768

Virginia University of Lynchburg

$440,105

Hampton University

$9,884,324

Norfolk State University

$13,425,519

Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong supporters of Virginia’s HBCUs. Last year, the Senators successfully pushed to get the FUTURE Act signed into law to restore $255 million in federal funding for these critical institutions.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded more than $156 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education to support Virginia students. The federal funding was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students, colleges, and universities as they cope with the immediate effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“This critical funding will help colleges and universities provide Virginia students with the support they need during this unprecedented time,” said the Senators. “We are pleased to see these resources go towards helping provide emergency financial aid for Virginia students, and we will keep fighting for the additional resources our educational institutions need in a future package.”

The CARES Act established a nearly $14 billion Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Of this amount, approximately $12.6 billion is allocated for Direct Grants to Institutions of Higher Education. Of this amount, half must be used “to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.” The U.S. Department of Education has made available the first half of the $12.6 billion that must go directly to students attending colleges and universities nationwide.

Of the total $312.9 million in funding that Virginia institutions will receive in Direct Grants to Institutions of Higher Education, this initial $156.5 million must go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants to help cover costs associated with the closures of Virginia’s institutions due to COVID-19, including course materials, food, health care, technology, housing, and other basic essentials. 

This funding will be distributed as follows:

School

Funding Amount:

George Mason University

                       10,427,512 

Virginia Commonwealth University

                       10,144,499 

Northern Virginia Community College

                       10,014,352 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

                         9,699,494

Ecpi University

                         8,381,184

Old Dominion University

                         7,774,451

Liberty University

                         7,602,562

James Madison University

                         6,040,329

Tidewater Community College

                         5,999,978

University Of Virginia

                         5,858,355

Radford University

                         4,546,102

Chamberlain University

                         4,003,665

Norfolk State University

                         3,450,858

Virginia State University

                         3,427,905

Strayer University

                         2,896,061

Devry University

                         2,356,884

Hampton University

                         2,132,171

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

                         2,075,592

College Of William & Mary

                         1,974,134

Thomas Nelson Community College

                         1,926,985

John Tyler Community College

                         1,724,392

Longwood University

                         1,610,289

Christopher Newport University

                         1,446,968

University Of Mary Washington

                         1,444,341

Germanna Community College

                         1,434,355

Virginia Western Community College

                         1,381,649

Stratford University

                         1,344,918

University Of Richmond

                         1,212,773

Fortis College

                         1,179,890

Lord Fairfax Community College

                         1,159,802

Virginia Union University

                         1,125,839

Marymount University

                         1,037,469

Centura College

                         1,034,606

Shenandoah University

                         1,020,101

University Of Lynchburg

                            987,990

Piedmont Virginia Community College

                            946,219

Blue Ridge Community College

                            931,016

Central Virginia Community College

                            908,909

Bridgewater College

                            899,990

Roanoke College

                            888,800

Southside Virginia Community College

                            838,923

Ferrum College

                            836,808

Southwest Virginia Community College

                            835,768

New River Community College

                            829,082

Danville Community College

                            802,111

Regent University

                            783,664

American National University

                            754,119

Virginia Wesleyan University

                            746,604

Patrick Henry Community College

                            741,862

Virginia Highlands Community College

                            699,385

Mountain Empire Community College

                            697,462

Emory & Henry College

                            631,120

Southern Virginia University

                            628,603

Tidewater Tech

                            621,653

Wytheville Community College

                            608,738

Rappahannock Community College

                            574,596

Virginia Military Institute

                            566,346

Mary Baldwin University

                            560,343

Randolph - Macon College

                            529,119

Averett University

                            527,830

Washington And Lee University

                            522,522

Eastern Mennonite University

                            446,713

Richard Bland College

                            410,367

Hollins University

                            399,857

University Of Virginia'S College At Wise (The)

                            394,483

Bluefield College

                            345,576

Hampden Sydney College

                            339,954

Randolph College

                            332,437

Columbia College

                            304,706

Edward Via Virginia College Of Osteopathic Medicine

                            294,902

Aviation Institute Of Maintenance

                            265,006

Standard Healthcare Services, College Of Nursing

                            258,155

Paul D. Camp Community College

                            256,309

Advanced Technology Institute

                            239,720

Dabney S Lancaster Community College

                            222,282

Chester Career College

                            215,795

Aviation Institute Of Maintenance

                            200,866

Rudy & Kelly Academy, A Paul Mitchell Partner School

                            189,470

Virginia University Of Lynchburg

                            178,959

Riverside College Of Health Careers

                            173,096

Eastern Shore Community College

                            169,168

Eastern Virginia Medical School

                            164,827

Eastern Virginia Career College

                            142,239

Sweet Briar College

                            136,245

Sylvain Melloul International Hair Academy

                            124,394

Paul Mitchell The School Roanoke

                            116,048

Centra College

                            114,790

Saint Michael College Of Allied Health

                            109,860

Sentara College Of Health Sciences

                              89,280

Tomorrow'S Image Barber & Beauty Academy Of Virginia

                              77,823

American Massage & Bodywork Institute

                              75,979

Chrysm Institute Of Esthetics (The)

                              71,012

Bon Secours Memorial College Of Nursing

                              70,535

Southside College Of Health Sciences

                              68,544

Henrico County-Saint Mary'S Hospital School Of Practical Nursing

                              55,215

Iglobal University

                              47,519

Culpeper Cosmetology Training Center

                              41,841

Virginia University Of Integrative Medicine

                              39,718

Fairfax University Of America

                              39,148

Esthetic Institute (The)

                              38,861

Northern Virginia School Of Therapeutic Massage

                             35,995

Dermal Science International Aesthetics & Nail Academy

                              34,171

Cayce/Reilly School Of Massage

                              30,794

Appalachian College Of Pharmacy

                              30,552

Avi Career Training

                              26,599

Wave Leadership College

                              23,758

Luckes Beauty Academy

                              22,630

Union Presbyterian Seminary

                              20,805

Appalachian School Of Law

                              20,805

Virginia School Of Hair Design

                              20,024

Another Level Barbering And Cosmetology School

                              18,966

Central School Of Practical Nursing

                              15,592

Institute Of Advanced Medical Esthetics

                              15,313

Suffolk Beauty Academy

                              14,328

Staunton School Of Cosmetology

                              14,189

School Board - City Of Va. Beach, Va. Beach School Of Prctl. Nrsg.

                              14,037

Sovah School Of Health Professions

                              11,643

Bon Secours St Mary'S Hospital School Of Medical Imaging

                              11,295

Bethel College

                                9,771

Divine Mercy University

                                6,325

Virginia Beach Theological Seminary

                                1,535

University Of Management And Technology (The)

                                1,347

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 33 of their colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity given school closures due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning. The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.

“Children without connectivity are at risk of not only being unable to complete their homework during this pandemic, but being unable to continue their overall education,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Senate and House leadership. “Congress must address this issue by providing financial support specifically dedicated to expanding home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically request at least $2 billion in E-Rate funds for schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or other devices with Wi-Fi capability to students without adequate connectivity at their home.

The coronavirus pandemic has shined a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework — at a time when more than 70 percent of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. Research has shown that the homework gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color. Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science. Without Congressional action, this existing inequity will only be exacerbated by the high number of schools that are suspending in-person classes and have transitioned to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Last month, Warner and Kaine called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clear guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education, as well as families and students, following widespread school closures across the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. In their letter, they highlighted that many students cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or internet access.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting in favor of a $2 trillion bipartisan package to provide financial relief to businesses and families as well as hospitals and local governments during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: 

“This is not the first step Congress has taken to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will it be the last. This bill provides significant financial relief to our families and businesses struggling with the effects of widespread closures and other public health measures. It greatly expands access to unemployment benefits – including, for the first time, gig workers, contractors and the self-employed –  and includes tax credits and other incentives I negotiated with the Trump Administration to help small businesses keep workers on payroll and keep them from going out of business during this crisis. This bipartisan bill also includes a massive infusion of resources for hospitals, frontline caregivers, and states and localities dealing with the brunt of COVID-19. I strongly urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay, so that we can get this urgently-required relief to those who so badly need it.

“This is a challenge unlike any we have faced in recent memory, but I believe that we as a country can and will get through this together. I will remain in close touch with state, local and health officials to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide the resources needed to fight the coronavirus.”

Previously, the President signed a bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency funding bill that directed needed resources to federal, state and local agencies responding to coronavirus. This legislation immediately provided Virginia with $13.3 million in federal funding to help cover the costs of preparations for this public health emergency. It also included language based on Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which reduces restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation.

On March 18, the President signed a second bipartisan coronavirus response bill that focused on the immediate economic impact of the coronavirus. This legislation expanded paid sick leave to many Americans, cut restrictions on unemployment insurance for workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and guaranteed freed coronavirus testing. It also included significant emergency funding for Medicaid, nutrition assistance, state unemployment programs, and coronavirus testing at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Today’s legislation provides for $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, and includes billions of dollars in lending and grant programs designed to help businesses, workers and municipalities survive this crisis, along with strong transparency and accountability measures to make sure that federal funding doesn’t go towards stock buybacks or bonuses for corporate executives. Today’s bipartisan bill also provides for $150 billion for hospitals and other public health infrastructure, part of an unprecedented investment that Sen. Warner and other Democrats fought to include as our frontline responders struggle under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. It also includes an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers, for the first time, to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt – provision modeled after Sen. Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act.

A more comprehensive list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, following passage of a bipartisan coronavirus economic relief package (H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a former Governor of Virginia, led a letter signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gary Peters (D-MI), urging state governors and workforce administrators to implement its provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits.

In a letter sent to the governors and heads of state workforce agencies for all 50 states, the Senators wrote, “Given the unique nature of the pandemic we are facing, we encourage you to take advantage of recently enacted federal legislation that increases resources for states to deliver timely unemployment insurance benefits to affected workers. The legislation should make it easier for workers to access unemployment benefits by waiving waiting weeks and work search requirements, as well as experience ratings for employers. Given these unavoidable circumstances, employers should not be penalized for encouraging their workers to receive unemployment compensation and workers should be able to access compensation immediately, particularly when other work opportunities may not be available.”

The Senators continued, “We are also especially concerned about the hardships facing workers who do not meet the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits, including so-called “gig workers” or other non-traditional workers that generally receive 1099 income as either a primary or secondary source of earnings. Many of these workers are not eligible for unemployment insurance, paid leave, sick leave, and other benefits that traditional, full-time workers typically receive from their employers, as well as workers who earn a large share of their incomes from tips. We continue to push for passage of Senator Wyden and Senator Peters’ Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which is modeled on the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program, and would ensure that gig workers and contractors are covered. However, given the severity of the crisis, we ask you to do whatever is possible to extend support to workers who do not fit into the usual framework of unemployment compensation. It is critical that there be no delay in using your existing authorities to support these workers to the greatest extent possible. ” 

The coronavirus economic relief legislation the Senate sent to the President’s desk today provides $1 billion in additional funding to state unemployment insurance programs. It also waives certain restrictions, including work search requirements and waiting periods for Americans who are either diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have lost their jobs due to the spread of the virus.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.

 

March 18, 2020

Governors and State Workforce Administrators:

We write today to thank you for your efforts to support workers during the unprecedented situation due to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue our efforts to provide federal assistance during these challenging times, we want to encourage you to do whatever is within your existing authorities to support workers facing hardship due to lost hours or jobs, sickness, family caretaking responsibilities, and other COVID-19-related circumstances.

Given the unique nature of the pandemic we are facing, we encourage you to take advantage of recently enacted federal legislation that increases resources for states to deliver timely unemployment insurance benefits to affected workers. The legislation should make it easier for workers to access unemployment benefits by waiving waiting weeks and work search requirements, as well as experience ratings for employers. Given these unavoidable circumstances, employers should not be penalized for encouraging their workers to receive unemployment compensation and workers should be able to access compensation immediately, particularly when other work opportunities may not be available. This is not only a matter of economic security but one of public health, as workers who cannot access unemployment benefits are likely to try and find work even when the costs to public health may be severe.

We are also especially concerned about the hardships facing workers who do not meet the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits, including so-called “gig workers” or other non-traditional workers that generally receive 1099 income as either a primary or secondary source of earnings. Many of these workers are not eligible for unemployment insurance, paid leave, sick leave, and other benefits that traditional, full-time workers typically receive from their employers, as well as workers who earn a large share of their incomes from tips. We continue to push for passage of Senator Wyden and Senator Peters’ Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which is modeled on the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program, and would ensure that gig workers and contractors are covered. However, given the severity of the crisis, we ask you to do whatever is possible to extend support to workers who do not fit into the usual framework of unemployment compensation. It is critical that there be no delay in using your existing authorities to support these workers to the greatest extent possible.

An effective response to COVID-19 will require a collaborative effort at the federal, state, and local levels of government and we stand ready to assist you in carrying out these critical efforts to protect public health while supporting workers through the economic shocks of the pandemic.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, were joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in sending a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate committees responsible for Congressional administration, calling on them to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if they have to self-quarantine during this time or have their work schedules unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations.

“Given the Legislative Branch’s extensive reliance on contract workers for a range of functions, including food service and janitorial work, we write to urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for these workers if they have to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 or in the event the Congress adjourns for a prolonged state work period as a social distancing measure,” the Senators wrote.

In the letter, sent to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO), Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19), and Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), the Senators highlighted the role that janitors, food service workers, and other support contractors play in maintaining the Capitol complex, which hosts three to five million visitors each year.

“We encourage you to consider ensuring any workers who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities—including directives to be tested, self-quarantine, or take other “social distancing” measures—have some financial forbearance,” the Senators continued. “While we are pleased that the Architect of the Capitol has directed contractors to provide paid administrative leave to any worker that has been confirmed to have COVID-19, we believe more expansive accommodations must be established to protect the public health and ensure workers don’t experience significant financial hardship in the wake of guidance from public health authorities.”

Earlier today, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms ordered limited access throughout the U.S. Capitol complex beginning this evening and running through April 1, 2020. The Capitol Visitor Center will be closed to all tours. The U.S. Capitol and Senate office buildings will be limited to Members, Congressional staff, credentialed press, and official business visitors escorted by a staff member.

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

March 12, 2020

The Honorable Roy Blunt

Chairman

Senate Committee on Rules & Administration

Russell 305

Washington, DC 20510 

The Honorable Zoe Lofgren

Chairperson

Committee on House Administration

Longworth 1309

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Amy Klobuchar

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Rules & Administration

Russell 305

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Rodney Davis

Ranking Member

Committee on House Administration

Longworth 1309

Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Klobuchar, Chairperson Lofgren & Ranking Member Davis:

As the United States mobilizes to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, we urge you to take into consideration the well-being of all of Legislative Branch employees, including contract workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a public health response to a potential coronavirus disease outbreak in the United States that included recommendations for social distancing.  The CDC is urging Americans to stay home when ill, work remotely, and seek medical care when infected. Out of an abundance of caution, workers who have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients have also been instructed to self-quarantine. In many contexts, employers have reduced operations, encouraging workers to stay at home on special leave prompted by the pandemic. Contract workers are critical to the daily function of the Capitol complex and surrounding buildings – a facility that hosts three to five million visitors each year. Approximately 60% of those visitors come to the Capitol complex between March and July.  

As The New York Times recently noted, however, following the CDC’s recommendations in response to the potential spread of the coronavirus is a luxury some workers can’t afford.  Some workers may simply not be able to follow these recommendations without experiencing some kind of financial hardship. Given the Legislative Branch’s extensive reliance on contract workers for a range of functions, including food service and janitorial work, we write to urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for these workers if they have to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 or in the event the Congress adjourns for a prolonged state work period as a social distancing measure. 

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on benefits provision, service sector workers are likely some of the most vulnerable workers during a potential spread of the coronavirus. We know, for example, that only 44% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 37% of workers in the bottom quartile of wages have access to a healthcare plan.   A majority of these workers also tend to work without access to paid leave. Only 43% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 56% of workers in the bottom quartile of earnings have access to some type of paid leave.  This last statistic is particularly salient for public health reasons because we know that more than 43% of workers in the bottom quartile needed to take leave in 2018 for their own illness or medical care and didn’t take it.  Over 60% of those part-time and lowest-wage workers felt they did not have enough leave, could not afford the loss of income, feared negative employment repercussions, or simply did not have access.  

We encourage you to consider ensuring any workers who follow novel coronavirus-related guidance from public health authorities—including directives to be tested, self-quarantine, or take other “social distancing” measures—have some financial forbearance. While we are pleased that the Architect of the Capitol has directed contractors to provide paid administrative leave to any worker that has been confirmed to have COVID-19, we believe more expansive accommodations must be established to protect the public health and ensure workers don’t experience significant financial hardship in the wake of guidance from public health authorities. 

Again, we strongly urge that you attempt to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if they have to self-quarantine during this time or have their work schedules unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, Congress must lead by example by committing that economic uncertainty will not deter these dedicated public servants from following public health guidance during the response.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to working together on this critical issue moving forward.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led 17 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the CEOs of eight major internet service providers (ISPs) calling on the companies to take steps to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services.

In the letter, sent to the CEOS of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Senators call on companies to suspend restrictions and fees that could limit telepresence options. With disruptions likely to reveal the full extent of the nation’s broadband gaps, they also call on the companies to provide free or at-cost broadband options for students affected by the virus who otherwise lack broadband access for online learning during the outbreak.

“As organizations around the country formulate their responses to the recent outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, we write to discuss the steps that your company is taking to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services,” wrote the Senators. “Specifically, we ask that you temporarily suspend broadband caps and associated fees or throttling for all communities affected by COVID-19 and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost, broadband options for students whose schools close due to COVID-19 who don’t have access at home.”

The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 113,000 people around the world, and killed more than 4,000 people to date. In the letter, the Senators emphasize the unprecedented demand for telepresence services that will likely occur during the coronavirus outbreak. The letter also highlights data from the Joint Economic Committee that nearly 12 million children live in homes lacking a broadband connection. According to Education Week, over 1.3 million students have already been impacted thus far by the coronavirus outbreak. 

“No one should be penalized or suffer financial duress for following guidance from the CDC, their employer, local public health officials, or school leaders. Unfortunately, many Americans are subject to restrictive data caps for their home broadband service – caps that could be particularly onerous given the more intensive broadband usage of households practicing social distancing measures and the economic uncertainty for which too many people without paid sick leave are already bracing,” the Senators continued. “While it’s likely that your networks will experience significantly greater traffic as a consequence of social distancing measures, we encourage you to forebear from application of broadband caps and associated fees or throttling as workers and families cope with the effects of this health emergency.”

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

A copy of the letter is found here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

March 12, 2020

Jeff McElfresh

Chief Executive Officer

AT&T Inc.     

Whitacre Tower

208 S. Akard Street

Dallas, TX 75201

Thomas Rutledge

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Charter Communications, Inc.

400 Atlantic Street 10th floor

Stamford, CT 06901

Jeffrey Storey

President and Chief Executive Officer

CenturyLink, Inc.

1025 Eldorado Boulevard

Broomfield, CO 80021

Dave Watson

President and Chief Executive Officer

Comcast Cable Communications, LLC

One Comcast Center

1701 JFK Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19103

Pat Esser 

President and Chief Executive Officer

Cox Communications

6205-B Peachtree Dunwoody Road

Atlanta, GA 30328

Michel Combes

President and Chief Executive Officer

Sprint Corporation

6200 Sprint Parkway

Overland Park, KS 66211

John Legere

Chief Executive Officer

T-Mobile

12920 SE 38th Street

Bellevue, WA 98006

Hans Vestberg   

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Verizon Communications Inc.                   

One Verizon Way

Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Dear Messrs. McElfresh, Esser, Rutledge, Combes, Storey, Legere, Watson, Vestberg:

As organizations around the country formulate their responses to the recent outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, we write to discuss the steps that your company is taking to accommodate the unprecedented reliance we will likely see on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. Specifically, we ask that you temporarily suspend broadband caps and associated fees or throttling for all communities affected by COVID-19 and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost, broadband options for students whose schools close due to COVID-19 who don’t have access at home.

The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 113,000 people around the world, and killed more than 4,000 people to date. While this situation is rapidly evolving, including in the United States and Europe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high and the spread of the disease in other countries shines a light on the need for a whole-of-society response.

On March 3, 2020, the CDC issued an interim guidance recommending that specific community actions be taken to limit exposure to the virus,[1] on top of previously recommended community-based interventions in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing, and creating employee plans to work remotely.[2] While the spread of COVID-19 is likely to affect different individuals, families, and communities differently, it is increasingly likely that a significant number of Americans will need to practice social distancing in some way.

During this period, it’s likely that we’ll see historic numbers of American students and their teachers relying on data-intensive services such as video teleconferencing, remote learning courses, and virtual mental health services. According to UNESCO, a “record number of school children are not attending school or university because of temporary or indefinite closures mandated by governments.”[3] Selected schools have closed in at least 21 states and that number seems likely to rise as the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases. According to Education Week, over 1,300,000 students have been impacted thus far.[4] Millions of workers have already begun teleworking in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; as evidence of the unprecedented demand for telework that we can expect to continue, videoconferencing software company Zoom has already added more active users this year than it did in all of 2019.[5] To effectively contain the disruptive impact that social distancing measures will have on our economy and on American students, it will be essential that these students, teachers, and workers – including patients and providers using telehealth in place of in-person care – have access to affordable broadband.

No one should be penalized or suffer financial duress for following guidance from the CDC, their employer, local public health officials, or school leaders. Unfortunately, many Americans are subject to restrictive data caps for their home broadband service – caps that could be particularly onerous given the more intensive broadband usage of households practicing social distancing measures and the economic uncertainty for which too many people without paid sick leave are already bracing. While it’s likely that your networks will experience significantly greater traffic as a consequence of social distancing measures, we encourage you to forebear from application of broadband caps and associated fees or throttling as workers and families cope with the effects of this health emergency.

These disruptions are also likely to acutely highlight the broadband gap that too many American households still face. According to some estimates, nearly one-third of American households lack meaningful broadband access, either because their homes are unserved or because they cannot afford broadband service.[6] Nearly 12 million children, for instance, live in homes lacking a broadband connection— a gap that highlights wider inequities facing rural Americans, American communities of color, and economically disadvantaged communities.[7] Without meaningful broadband access, students from these communities could be set back months in their learning – further exacerbating the socio-economic disparities these communities face. To that end, we encourage you to make efforts to work with local school districts, community colleges, and universities to provide under- and unserved households with free, or at-cost, broadband options, including through the provision of mobile hotspots.

We look forward to hearing swiftly from you about what steps you will take to help limit the economic and social disruption that COVID-19 is posing at this challenging time. Containing the health impact of COVID-19 will depend on observance of social distancing measures outlined by CDC and public health authorities. But containing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-society effort. At this time of great strain on our economic and education systems, we encourage you to do everything you can to cushion the impacts on American workers and students.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.  We are anxious to hear your response.

Sincerely,

###


[1] “Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 7, 2020), available at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html

[2] “Preventing COVID-19 Spread in Communities,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 20, 2020), available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fpreparing-individuals-communities.html

[3] “COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response,” United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (March 11, 2020), available at: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures

[4] “Map: Coronavirus and School Closures,” Education Week (March 11, 2020), available at: https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html

[5] Jordan Novet, “Zoom Has Added More Videoconferencing Users This Year Than in All of 2019 Thanks to Coronavirus, Bernstein Says,” CNBC (February 26, 2020), available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/26/zoom-has-added-more-users-so-far-this-year-than-in-2019-bernstein.html

[6] Brian Heater, “Nearly A Third of US Households Don’t Have A Broadband Connection,” TechCrunch (July 25, 2019), available at: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/25/nearly-a-third-of-u-s-households-dont-have-a-broadband-connection/

[7] “America’s Digital Divide,” Democratic Staff of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (September 2017), available at: https://www.jec.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/ff7b3d0b-bc00-4498-9f9d-3e56ef95088f/the-digital-divide-.pdf

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Ranking Member Patty Murray and 29 of their Democratic colleagues in urging Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clear guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education, as well as families and students, following widespread school closures across the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. In a letter to Secretary DeVos, the senators stressed that it is crucial that the Department of Education provide direction as schools prepare to make difficult decisions about closures.

“Increasing numbers of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are considering school closures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.  We urge the U.S. Department of Education to consider several serious issues related to school closure as it works with school districts, state education agencies, educators, and institutions of higher education, as well as with the President’s Task Force and public health officials,” wrote the senators.

As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, many schools have already closed – including the University of Virginia and Northern Virginia Community College. School districts in Fairfax County, Pulaski County, and Rockingham County are preparing for potential closures, and institutions of higher education including Virginia Tech and James Madison University are considering online classes. School closures particularly affect students who are food or housing insecure, students who cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or internet access, and students with disabilities. Students on federal financial aid and student loan borrowers may also be affected by school closures.

Specifically, the Senators urged the Department of Education to provide guidance on a number of issues including:

  • How K-12 schools should ensure students can access school lunch programs;
  • How schools using online learning should meet the needs of students without computers or access to internet and students with disabilities;
  • How schools should ensure students receive a high-quality education online;
  • How schools should provide mental health services remotely;
  • How colleges and universities should help students enrolled in programs of study abroad affected by the spread of the virus;
  • How colleges and universities should help students avoid using up their federal financial aid if they have to leave school due to the spread of the virus;
  • How the Department of Education will help federal student loan borrowers if they cannot work due to the spread of the virus;
  • How the Department of Education will adjust financial aid for families affecting by the spread of the virus (including job losses or closures).

Considering the urgency of the crisis, the senators asked for a response no later than March 24. In addition to Senators Warner, Kaine, and Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

Democrats in the Senate have already pushed for answers from the Department of Education on how they will work to protect students, teachers, and staff during the coronavirus crisis.

The full text of the letter is below and HERE.

 

March 10, 2020

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We write on the topic of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact it is having on schools across the country.  Increasing numbers of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are considering school closures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.  We urge the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) to consider several serious issues related to school closure as it works with school districts, state education agencies, educators, and institutions of higher education, as well as with the President’s Task Force and public health officials.

On February 27, 2020, the Department announced it had launched an internal Coronavirus Task Force led by Mick Zais, Deputy Secretary of Education.  On March 4, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights provided guidance about educational institutions’ responsibility to address bullying and harassment of students of Asian descent due to stereotypes related to COVID-19.  On March 5, 2020, the Department provided guidance and flexibility to institutions of higher education impacted by COVID-19 to comply with Title IV of the Higher Education Act, but additional questions remain.[1]  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued interim guidance for IHEs and for K-12 schools.[2]

We do not yet know the scale at which K-12 schools and IHEs across the country may need to close in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but we urge you to do everything you can to ensure you are continuing to prepare stakeholders for a variety of scenarios.  To date, over a dozen countries have shut down schools nationwide, and the number grows each day.[3]  As the virus continues to spread throughout the United States, many schools have closed, and it is becoming increasingly likely many more will choose to do so.  For example, on March 6, the University of Washington announced it would cancel in-person classes and move to online classes for its 50,000 students beginning March 9 through the end of the winter quarter on March 20.[4]  Seattle University and Northeastern University’s Seattle campus have also moved to online classes, as have Stanford University and Columbia University.[5]  Some K-12 schools in Washington, New York, California, and Rhode Island have also temporarily closed.[6]  

As schools prepare to make these difficult decisions, they are faced with many legal and practical uncertainties and are looking for clear guidance and direction from the Department.

We are especially concerned by the adverse impact of school closures on certain students and families.  In K-12 schools, many families rely on the Federal School Lunch Program and may experience food insecurity if they can no longer access meals at school.  Few school districts have experience providing wide-scale educational services online for all students, and not all families have access to home computers and high-speed internet to take advantage of such online options.  Online learning cannot substitute for a number of services provided in the school setting, and it raises particular challenges to ensuring equity in access to education for all students.

COVID-19 also could severely impact many students in higher education, as well as federal loan borrowers.  Students rely on their colleges for on-campus food and housing services.  American students enrolled abroad in foreign colleges face barriers to continuing their education, whether online or at other colleges and universities in other countries and the United States.  Depending on the spread of economic effects across the country, federal student loan borrowers affected by the impacts of COVID-19 may experience difficulty in repaying their loans.  Finally, online education is not the best or preferred method of learning for many students, including students who may be the first in their families to go to college or come from low-income families.  If IHEs move to providing education online, we urge the Department to prioritize and ensure students continue to receive a high-quality education, including live, face-to-face, synchronous instruction between students and faculty as much as possible.

We urge you to consider these issues and provide us, and the public, answers to the following questions by no later than March 24, 2020:

  1. What communication has the Department had with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the school lunch program to ensure students in schools that have closed or will close continue to have access to meals?
  1. What communication has the Department had with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about school-based health centers (SBHC) to ensure students and families who rely on health care services provided by SBHCs will continue to have access to such services in schools that have closed or will close?
  1. Can the Department provide assistance to families without home computers or access to high-speed internet so they can take advantage of online educational options provided by either their school districts or IHEs if they need to?
  1. What guidance will the Department provide about meeting the educational needs of students who need to stop attending school, including based on the recommendation of a doctor, because they are sick, due to school closure, or for other reasons?
  1. If school districts and IHEs elect to provide online classes, they must ensure access is available for all students, including students with disabilities.  What guidance is being provided to support school districts and IHEs in providing accessible instructional material, including ensuring websites are accessible, documents are compatible with screen readers, videos include closed captioning, students can participate in online video discussions, and, as applicable, accommodations for testing are provided remotely?
  1. CDC guidance recommends IHEs ensure continuity of mental health services for students feeling overwhelmed with COVID-19 and associated events.  What supports and assistance will the Department give to IHEs and school districts in providing remote services to all students? 
  1. While flexibility for colleges to use online education was addressed in the Department’s guidance, this guidance did not address issues of quality.  How does the Department plan to monitor and ensure students receive regular and substantive interaction by their instructor(s) in higher education online programs?
  • What additional specific guidance is being provided to institutions on what “regular” and “substantive” interaction looks like?
  • The Department’s guidance from the Office of Postsecondary Education from March 5, 2020 states that “instructors must initiate substantive communication with students, either individually or collectively, on a regular basis,” and gave examples of instructors emailing instructional materials and using chat features and conference calls to communicate to students.  Will the Department issue additional guidance that reflects the concepts found in the consensus draft regulatory definition for distance education (34 CFR 600.2), in that interaction must be proactive, prompt, predictable, and responsive to students on the basis of student monitoring and request?[7] 
  1. Will the Department advise or encourage IHEs to establish broader academic leave of absence policies for the purposes of relieving them from SAP restrictions?
  1. How will the Department plan to encourage or require IHEs to provide proactive warnings to students regarding “Return of Title IV” procedures so that, if they leave mid-term due to COVID-19, they do not incur a surprise loan bill or use up their federal financial aid?
  1. Will the Department clarify that loss of a job due to illness or closure of an employer is a qualifying event for purposes of professional judgment?
  1. Will the Department provide loan deferment or forbearance opportunities for borrowers, including waiving accrued interest, if their ability to work or earn income is disrupted?
  1. Will the Department issue any guidance on whether IHEs need to report withdrawal dates that may trigger the one-time student loan “grace period” or if they can delay to keep students enrolled for a temporary absence?
  1. How does the Department plan to address current regulatory limits placed on a foreign college’s program of study to take place in the United States or at an accredited foreign institution that is ineligible for Title IV aid?
  1. What limits does the Department plan to enforce regarding an institution’s partnership with institutions or organizations ineligible for Title IV aid?

We also look forward to reading your response to the letter sent by Senator Murray and several members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on March 2, 2020, regarding how the Department is preparing for the potential spread of the outbreak and working with other federal agencies and key stakeholders.  Thank you for your consideration of these issues and your timely response.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged the Department of Labor to start collecting information on access to essential benefits for all workers in the economy, including contingent workers and those in alternative work arrangements, such as gig workers. This request comes after the Centers for Disease Control issued social distancing guidance for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, recommending that Americans work remotely, stay home when ill, and seek medical care when infected – underscoring the vulnerability of many Americans working without access to basic safety net protections traditionally provided by full-time employment.

“As The Washington Post recently wrote, gig workers – and contingent workers more broadly – are likely the most vulnerable workers to a potential spread of the coronavirus,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “They may be working without access to a healthcare plan or paid sick leave. As a consequence, they’re not likely to follow the CDC’s coronavirus recommendations. They may not go to the doctor when they are sick for lack of insurance and they may not stay home due to loss of income.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 10.1 percent of the labor force – roughly 15 million workers in the U.S. – are engaged in alternative employment arrangements as their primary form of occupation. Currently, there is no BLS data detailing what percentage of those workers have access to benefits that can be essential during an outbreak, such as paid sick leave, access to health care and the ability to work remotely.

“Our American system of social insurance should not be a benefit we offer to the most privileged of workers. The entire premise of the Affordable Care Act was to solidify that basic access to healthcare should not be conditional on worker status, sector of employment, or take-home pay – every American should have access to affordable healthcare,” he continued. “In the U.S. Congress, I have advocated for experimentation of a portable benefits system for independent workers that would include a broader set of worker benefits. It seems increasingly clear that – for certain workers – not having access to benefits that are portable, that they can take from job to job and gig to gig, is a public health issue for the rest of American society.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner also noted the lack of access to benefits for traditional, low- to middle-wage workers, who are less likely to take leave even if they need it, because they cannot afford the loss of income or fear negative employment repercussions. According to a March 2019 Employee Benefits Survey, only 44 percent of service sector workers, 23 percent of part-time workers, and 37 percent of workers in the bottom quartile of wages have access to a healthcare plan. Additionally, only 43 percent of service sector workers, 23 percent of part-time workers, and 56 percent of workers in the bottom quartile of earnings have access to some type of paid leave.

Sen. Warner has led the effort in Congress to try to prepare workers for shifting nature of work, particularly as it pertains to access to benefits. Last year, he reintroduced four pieces of legislation to support Americans in our evolving workforce. This included two bills to encourage employers to invest in worker training and education, a bill to expand access to mortgages for those with non-traditional work arrangements, and a bill to allow states, localities and nonprofit organizations to experiment with portable benefits for the growing independent workforce.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

The Honorable Eugene Scalia

Secretary of Labor

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Scalia,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently put out a public health response to a potential coronavirus disease outbreak in the United States that included recommendations for social distancing.  The CDC is urging Americans to stay home when ill, work remotely, and seek medical care when infected. As The New York Times recently noted, however, following the CDC’s recommendations in response to the potential spread of the coronavirus can often be a luxury some workers can’t afford.  Some workers may simply not be able to follow these recommendations without experiencing some kind of financial hardship. I write to urgently ask that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) start collecting information on the extent to which all workers in the economy – including contingent workers and those in alternative work arrangements – have access to these kinds of benefits.

Based on what we know from the BLS’s current data collection efforts, 10.1% of the labor force is engaged in alternative employment arrangements as their primary form of occupation.  That translates to roughly 15 million workers in the United States. Unfortunately, we don’t know how many of those workers are working without access to a broader worker benefits system.

As The Washington Post recently wrote, gig workers – and contingent workers more broadly – are likely the most vulnerable workers to a potential spread of the coronavirus.  They may be working without access to a healthcare plan or paid sick leave. As a consequence, they’re not likely to follow the CDC’s coronavirus recommendations. They may not go to the doctor when they are sick for lack of insurance and they may not stay home due to loss of income.

From the information we do know about worker benefits provision in the United States – thanks to the BLS’s current data collection efforts – access to healthcare and other benefits is already a problem for low to middle wage workers. Your most recent March 2019 Employee Benefits Survey results suggest we’re facing a worker benefit polarization problem in the United States. We know, for example, that only 44% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 37% of workers in the bottom quartile of wages have access to a healthcare plan.  

A majority of these workers also tend to work without access to paid leave. Only 43% of service sector workers, 23% of part-time workers, and 56% of workers in the bottom quartile of earnings have access to some type of paid leave.  This last statistic is particularly salient for public health reasons because we know that more than 43% of workers in the bottom quartile needed to take leave in 2018 for their own illness or medical care and didn’t take it.  Of those workers that needed to take leave, your surveys tell us that over 60% of part-time and lowest wage workers didn’t do so either because they did not have enough leave, could not afford the loss of income, feared negative employment repercussions, or simply did not have access.

The other important piece of information we know as a result of current data collection efforts is that the ability to work from home is a benefit concentrated among those with higher levels of education. Your surveys note that roughly 12% of workers with a high school degree worked at home on an average day, while nearly 42% of workers with an advanced degree did.  This same trend holds true for full-time workers making the lowest weekly earnings – less than 8% work from home on an average day – while almost 35% of workers with the highest earnings do.  Similarly, less than 10% of workers in the service, construction and extraction, production, and transportation and material moving sectors seem to work from home. 

Our American system of social insurance should not be a benefit we offer to the most privileged of workers. The entire premise of the Affordable Care Act was to solidify that basic access to healthcare should not be conditional on worker status, sector of employment, or take-home pay – every American should have access to affordable healthcare. In the U.S. Congress, I have advocated for experimentation of a portable benefits system for independent workers that would include a broader set of worker benefits. It seems increasingly clear that – for certain workers – not having access to benefits that are portable, that they can take from job to job and gig to gig, is a public health issue for the rest of American society.

Again, I strongly urge that the Department of Labor start collecting information about access to worker benefits for all workers, including those in alternative work arrangements. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you on your next steps.

Sincerely,

MARK R. WARNER

Cc: Commissioner William W. Beach

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WASHINGTON – Today in a letter to President Trump, 34 Senate Democrats led by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) called for an economic stimulus package focused on helping working Americans and their families who will be most harmed by the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus in the United States.

“The spread of COVID-19 will create economic ramifications that will affect individuals, families, and regions differently.  While following social distancing guidelines may be important to mitigate the spread of the virus, it creates potentially grave economic challenges for American workers who are not easily able to telework or who do not have access to paid leave.  Further limitations on travel, access to more common general services, and cancellation of major events will potentially hurt a large number of Americans who work or depend upon hospitality, travel, tourism, and retail businesses,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued, “Thus the goal of any economic stimulus should be directly aimed at the two types of workers who will be most harmed.  First, any proposed relief should directly target workers who may have followed medical guidance to self-quarantine because of potential exposure, or those who are required to care for a family member.  Second, it should also ensure that workers whose employment or income is significantly jeopardized by industries who may experience the economic slowdown as a consequence of the spread of the virus are appropriately protected. Further, any mechanism to provide relief must predominately be done as a pass through to workers. Our focus should not be on boosting company returns; instead, our focus should be on helping workers, including hourly workers and those workers at small or retail businesses who often don’t have access to short term savings or paid time off.”

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The letter is available here and below.

 

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

Office of the President

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump:

We welcome the conversation on the impact of the economic consequences of the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus in the United States.  Unfortunately, many of the ideas that have been raised thus far have skewed towards more traditional stimulus measures, such as tax benefits for wealthier individuals and corporations.  However, in light of this unique public health crisis, we believe any economic relief package must be crafted to predominately target economic relief for the most affected American workers and their families.

To date, the current U.S. response – while too slow – has been appropriately focused on access to testing and medical care, including the passage of an emergency supplemental that allocates substantial resources to health professionals and communities who are fighting this virus.  To address any macroeconomic impact, the Federal Reserve recently made a decision to cut interest rates. And to date, some large businesses have assured their workers that they will not be economically penalized for following the appropriate guidance from public health authorities.

However, the spread of COVID-19 will create economic ramifications that will affect individuals, families, and regions differently.  While following social distancing guidelines may be important to mitigate the spread of the virus, it creates potentially grave economic challenges for American workers who are not easily able to telework or who do not have access to paid leave.  Further limitations on travel, access to more common general services, and cancellation of major events will potentially hurt a large number of Americans who work or depend upon hospitality, travel, tourism, and retail businesses.

Thus the goal of any economic stimulus should be directly aimed at the two types of workers who will be most harmed.  First, any proposed relief should directly target workers who may have followed medical guidance to self-quarantine because of potential exposure, or those who are required to care for a family member.  Second, it should also ensure that workers whose employment or income is significantly jeopardized by industries who may experience the economic slowdown as a consequence of the spread of the virus are appropriately protected. Further, any mechanism to provide relief must predominately be done as a pass through to workers. Our focus should not be on boosting company returns; instead, our focus should be on helping workers, including hourly workers and those workers at small or retail businesses who often don’t have access to short term savings or paid time off.

Again, we welcome the conversation about federal fiscal relief, and look forward to supporting measures that will put the American worker first and truly help ease the burden of this crisis for the many Americans who continue to be impacted. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter with a bipartisan group of Senators expressing their strong opposition to an abrupt decision by the Department of Education that jeopardizes funding eligibility for 800 rural, low-income schools across the country. In their letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Senators objected to the Department’s sudden change to the methodology that determines which rural schools are eligible for funding through the Rural Low-Income Schools (RLIS) program. The change is being implemented without notice to Congress and after funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020 has already been appropriated.

In FY19, 40 Virginia localities received just more than $2 million in RLIS grants. As a result of the Department’s change, five Virginia localities could lose their grants this fiscal year: Buena Vista City, Carroll County, Page County, Patrick County, and Surry County. These five grants totaled about $270,000 last year, roughly 13 percent of Virginia’s overall allocation.

“Since 2002, rural schools across the nation have relied on these additional flexible funds to purchase supplies and make technology upgrades; expand curricular offerings, such as in reading, physical education, music, and art; provide distance learning opportunities; fund transportation; and support professional development activities,” the Senators wrote. “Without any chance to prepare, this abrupt change in RLIS eligibility will force many rural schools districts to forgo essential activities and services.”

“The Department’s decision has created a funding cliff for hundreds of rural, low-income schools that are already balancing tight budgets,” the Senators continued. “REAP helps deliver an equitable and enriching education to thousands of students living in rural America. We strongly encourage you to rescind this new interpretation and to work with Congress to serve students in rural communities.”

The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) is the only dedicated federal funding stream to help rural school districts. It consists of two programs – the RLIS program and the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program. The grants are intended to improve student achievement and can include things like parental involvement activities, teacher preparation, language instruction for English-language learners, and bullying prevention.

Many states have qualified for RLIS because the Department of Education has allowed school districts to measure poverty by the percentage of students receiving federally subsidized free and reduced-price meals. Although free lunch data is an important measure of poverty for rural districts, this year, the Department decided that it will no longer allow states to use this data to determine eligibility for the RLIS program. This change places RLIS grantees in jeopardy and will put additional strain on the SRSA program. School districts that, previously, may have been eligible to choose either SRSA or RLIS may find themselves only eligible for SRSA, which is likely to reduce the value of awards in that crucial program.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and signed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Angus King (I-ME), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Todd Young (R-IN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Joni Ernst (R-IA), James Lankford (R-OK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mike Braun (R-IN), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary

United States Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC  20202-8510

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We write to express our strong opposition to the Department of Education’s decision to change the eligibility methodology for the Rural Low-Income Schools Program. According to the Department’s own projections, this change, which is being implemented without notice to Congress and after funding for fiscal year (FY) 2020 has already been appropriated, is expected to exclude more than 800 rural, low-income schools from eligibility nationwide this year. We urge the Department to prevent these cuts from taking effect.

The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP), authored by Senator Susan Collins and former Senator Kent Conrad, is the only dedicated federal funding stream to help rural schools overcome the increased expenses caused by geographic isolation.  It consists of two programs – the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program and the Rural and Low-Income Schools (RLIS) program. Rural school districts frequently lack the resources and staff needed to compete effectively for federal grants, and often receive formula grant allocations too small to be effective. Since 2002, rural schools across the nation have relied on these additional flexible funds to purchase supplies and make technology upgrades; expand curricular offerings, such as in reading, physical education, music, and art; provide distance learning opportunities; fund transportation; and support professional development activities. Without any chance to prepare, this abrupt change in RLIS eligibility will force many rural school districts to forgo essential activities and services.

The RLIS program targets funding to rural, high-poverty schools. In 2003, one year after the law was enacted, the Department advised states that, if Census poverty data for a school district did not exist, the state could “provide the U.S. Department of Education with the adjusted poverty data that it uses to make its allocations to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) under Part A of Title I to determine the eligibility of LEAs for which Census poverty estimates are not available.” Since that time, the Department has continued to accept an alternative poverty measurement for allocating RLIS funding, without interruption or revised guidance. For many rural school districts, standard measures of neighborhood poverty, including those collected the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE), is unavailable or undercounts the number of economically disadvantaged students. Many states have instead relied on annual, local data collected through participation in the Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program. This is a widely-used, comprehensive measure of poverty in schools. In fact, federal funding allocated under Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act permits small school districts to submit an alternative poverty measurement for the Department’s distribution of funds to those districts. Yet under the Department’s change, even school districts that are not using alternative poverty measurements are seeing dramatic swings in funding due to the limitations of the SAIPE data. The sharp eligibility disparities and funding cuts illustrate the serious deficiencies in relying on the SAIPE data alone to implement the RLIS program.

In 2015, Congress reauthorized REAP through the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Predicting some adjustments, Congress included a hold harmless provision to ease the transition for schools in the SRSA program. The Department appears to have had no difficulty implementing the REAP improvements, particularly with respect to dual-eligibility, and it continued to accept alternate poverty data for the RLIS program. At no time during the ESSA transition did the Department notify Congress or states that the RLIS program would be administered differently. It continued to accept alternative poverty measurements, including those based on free and reduced-price lunch, and states reasonably relied on its past practices and consistent approvals to do the same. Additionally, Congress relied on the technical expertise of the Department and this eligibility issue was never brought to our attention.  It is puzzling that the Department has now, 18 years after REAP’s creation and more than four years after its reauthorization, chosen to implement the law differently and without any notice to Congress.

Additionally, ESSA provides the Secretary with the authority to “take such steps as are necessary to provide for the orderly transition” to the law’s requirements. The Department identified several requirements over which it would exercise flexibility, but it never identified methodological changes to the RLIS program. The Department should once again rely on the its “orderly transition” authority to prevent an implementation change from taking effect, and thus avoid the severe eligibility and funding reductions it is proposing for this year.

We are also alarmed that the Department did not provide Congress, states, and school districts with any notice about its decision to use a new methodology prior to or along with submitting its budget request for REAP in FY 2020. In fact, the FY 2020 request expressed continued support for dividing equally the funds appropriated to both SRSA and RLIS. Thus, Congress rightly expected the Department to administer RLIS consistent with past practices. Today’s after-the-fact change, however, places RLIS grantees in jeopardy and will put additional strain on the SRSA program. School districts that, previously, may have been eligible to choose either SRSA or RLIS may find themselves only eligible for SRSA, which are likely to reduce the value of awards in that crucial program. The Department’s decision has created a funding cliff for hundreds of rural, low-income schools that are already balancing tight budgets. We also note that the Department’s FY 2021 budget request includes no mention of any methodological changes to the REAP grants.

REAP helps deliver an equitable and enriching education to thousands of students living in rural America. We strongly encourage you to rescind this new interpretation and to work with Congress to serve students in rural communities. We look forward to working with you on this important issue and request an immediate response.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House Financial Services Committee voted to advance legislation led by Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) to require public companies to disclose information about their management policies related to their workforce, including the investments they make on skills training, workforce safety, and employee retention.

The Workforce Investment Disclosure Act was advanced by a vote of 33 to 25, and now heads to the House floor for consideration by the whole House of Representatives.

A Senate companion version of the legislation was also introduced this week by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation would require public companies to disclose basic human capital metrics, including workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, and compensation statistics.

“When I meet with companies nowadays, they tell me that their people are their greatest asset – but our businesses’ public disclosures don’t cover the investments they’re making in their employees. With this legislation, we can gain a better understanding of what companies are doing to improve and protect their most valuable asset,” said Rep. Axne. “I’m grateful that my colleagues on the Financial Services Committee and Senator Warner have all stepped in to help get us one step closer to making this transparency standard law.”

“As our nation continues to evolve and our economy becomes more knowledge-based, workers are easily becoming the most valuable asset a company can have. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that establishes a relationship between measurable human capital management – the way that companies manage and support their employees – and long-term financial performance,” said Sen. Warner. “When a business invests properly in its workforce, it boosts the company’s ability to innovate and compete. Companies should be required to disclose exactly how they’re investing in their labor force, and I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Axne on this important effort.”

The rise of service and intellectual property-based businesses has made current asset disclosure requirements insufficient to provide investors needed clarity. In 1975, more than 80% of the S&P 500’s market value was in companies’ tangible assets like real estate holdings or purchased equipment. By 2015, tangible assets accounted for less than 20%.

Disclosure requirements for human capital are supported by notable investment and asset management firms.

Last year, leadership of major investors BlackRock and State Street Global Advisory both emphasized the importance of human capital — and have indicated the need to create standardized reporting. In addition, research from the Embankment Project on Inclusive Capitalism, a partnership between asset managers directing $30 trillion and large public corporations, found U.S. companies that disclose their total human capital costs outperform those that don’t.

The bill is Rep. Axne’s fourth piece of legislation aimed at encouraging good corporate practices and improving public transparency at U.S. companies.

Last week, Axne introduced legislation to create disclosure requirements for large corporations’ use of tax havens.

In January, she responded to the certification of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers in Des Moines who lost their jobs to outsourcing by writing new legislation to help workers laid off due to offshoring get assistance faster through better disclosure of these practices.

Last October, the House passed Axne’s first bill related to disclosures — the Outsourcing Accountability Act — which would require large corporations to disclose the locations of their employees around the world to discourage offshoring and hold companies accountable for laying off U.S. workers.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) were joined by seventeen of their Senate colleagues in encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to expand its planned analysis of federal K-12 education spending to include dual and concurrent enrollment programs and early college high schools.

In their letter, the Senators urged the Department to examine utilization, outcomes and best practices of college in high school programs that receive funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The most recent reauthorization of ESEA – the Every Student Succeeds Act – passed on a bipartisan basis in 2015 with the support of Sens. Warner and Portman, who both successfully included a number of provisions to increase access to dual and concurrent enrollment programs.

“As strong supporters of college in high school programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support increasing student access to high quality programs that promote academic success,” wrote the Senators. “ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students—particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds—for success in college and career. Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.”

“Numerous rigorous, multi-institution, and statewide quantitative research studies in more than a dozen states have proven that these programs increase high school graduation, college readiness, and college access, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” they continued. “An examination by the Department of school districts’ use of funds to support college in high school programs would be timely and help inform future policymaking to ensure more low-income and underrepresented students have access to these successful models.”

In December 2019, the Department of Education announced its plan to analyze the dollars spent by 400 of the nation’s school districts on five programs (Part A of Titles I, II, III and IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and Title I, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This analysis would be the government’s first education spending study of its kind to occur since 2009.

Sens. Warner and Portman have been strong advocates of expanding access to dual and concurrent enrollment. They introduced legislation last year to allow eligible low-income students to use their Pell Grant funding to pay for college credits they accrue while still in high school. Sens. Warner and Portman have also been supportive of the Department of Education’s dual enrollment Pell experimental program, which allows eligible students at 42 sites across the country – including Central Virginia Community College – to access their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in dual enrollment courses. In 2018, they urged the Administration to consider expanding the dual enrollment Pell experiment to meet the goal of 10,000 participating low-income high school students.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Portman, this letter was sent by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202-1510

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As strong supporters of college in high school programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to examine how school districts are using federal funding opportunities created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to support increasing student access to high quality programs that promote academic success. The Department recently announced plans to study district and school uses of federal education funds for ESSA (ED–2019–ICCD–0160). We strongly encourage you to examine utilization, outcomes, and best practices of college in high school programs as part of that initiative.

ESSA recognizes the important roles that these college in high school programs can play in preparing students—particularly those from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds—for success in college and career. Through these programs, high school students gain exposure to the academic challenges of college, earning transcripted, transferable college credit often at reduced or no tuition cost.

Numerous rigorous, multi-institution, and statewide quantitative research studies in more than a dozen states have proven that these programs increase high school graduation, college readiness, and college access, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Additionally, in 2017 the Institute of Education Sciences’ What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviewed dozens of studies against their strict criteria and found a medium-to-large evidence base that shows positive impacts on college enrollment and completion from participating in dual enrollment programs.

We encourage the Department to examine how states and districts are leveraging and coordinating federal resources across funding streams for which dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school are allowable uses to support a comprehensive network of high-quality programs. Namely, ESSA established a series of reporting requirements, state and local plan components, and allowable uses of funds all aimed at encouraging states and local education agencies to prioritize dual and concurrent enrollment as a key strategy for successfully preparing students for college and the workforce.

Since these provisions are all housed in portions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that the Department intends to analyze as part of its Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds (i.e. Titles I, II, III, and IV) and many of the provisions impacting dual and concurrent enrollment programs were new to federal law with the passage of ESSA, an examination by the Department of school districts’ use of funds to support college in high school programs would be timely and help inform future policymaking to ensure more low-income and underrepresented students have access to these successful models.

We appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, celebrated the Senate’s passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would restore $255 million in federal funding for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that expired on September 30.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which stand to lose resources and face continued uncertainty if the funding is not extended.

“I’m glad the Senate was able to put partisanship aside and keep our commitment to these important institutions of higher education,” said Sen. Warner. “This is an investment in our students, which represented nearly $4 million for Virginia’s HBCUs last year, and I’m hopeful the House will swiftly get this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“Today, the United States Senate passed an amendment to the FUTURE Act that will extend mandatory Title III funding for ten years. For Norfolk State University, this represents more than $5.8 million in federal funding for our teacher preparation and STEM programs,” said Norfolk State University (NSU) President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston. “NSU expresses appreciation to Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Congressman Bobby Scott for standing with Virginia’s HBCUs, and urges the members of the House of Representatives to pass this legislation and send it to the President’s desk without delay.”

Last month, Sen. Warner joined more than three dozen Senators in a letter to Senate leaders calling for passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act to renew this vital funding for Virginia’s HBCUs. Sen. Warner also spoke last month on the Senate floor, as well as at a press conference with HBCU students and advocates, in support of the FUTURE Act.

In the mid-1990s, as a successful tech entrepreneur, Warner – who is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union – helped to create the Virginia High-Tech Partnership (VHTP) to connect students attending Virginia’s five HBCUs with internship opportunities in tech firms across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act to help senior living facilities caring for aging adults to better screen, hire, and retain quality staff. The Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act would provide nursing home operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – an existing national criminal background check system – a move that would give employers greater ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history that would endanger the seniors under their care.

“Anyone with a loved one in a senior living facility should have the peace of mind of knowing that they are receiving care from compassionate, dependable, and well-qualified staff as they live out their golden years,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide these facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the demands of high quality care without losing staffing levels.”

Our senior citizens, and their families, know the importance of having well-qualified, compassionate and trustworthy caregivers in senior living facilities,” said Sen. Scott. “The Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act will help these facilities more efficiently hire the best candidates, and, in turn, provide better care for seniors everywhere.” 

Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.

Additionally, the bipartisan legislation amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities – for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations. Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for nursing assistants to care for the growing aging population is projected to rise 9 percent from 2018 to 2028. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs. But with the existing two-year lockout period, it can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing employees. Research by CMS also indicates that there is a direct correlation between facilities that are staffed adequately and the high-quality care they provide.

Specifically, the legislation would allow senior living facilities to reinstate its CNA training program if:

    • The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
    • The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
    • And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period.

“CNAs are essential to the quality care provided in long term care facilities. In addition, the jobs provided by nursing homes and assisted living communities are important to many communities, especially rural areas, where they are often a major employer,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. “This bill does two important things. First, it will help ensure that long term care providers have the ability to provide training programs for CNAs. Just as important, it will allow skilled nursing facilities access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, providing a better way to conduct background checks on potential employees. We applaud Senator Warner and Senator Scott for taking this important step to address the worker recruitment and retention challenges facing providers.”

“Workforce development is crucial to our members’ ability to provide top-notch care. The loss of nurse aide training authority is an obstacle to quality improvement for nursing homes, and particularly when increased staffing levels are needed,” said Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO, LeadingAge. “We have for years advocated for changes to the training lockout mandated under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This legislation, like similar legislation in the House (H.R. 4468), offers a much-needed solution to help alleviate the severe workforce shortage in long term care. CNAs, who provide direct care to residents, are the backbone of every nursing homes’ team.”

“LeadingAge Virginia applauds Senators Mark Warner and Tim Scott for introducing legislation that will enable training of certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Under federal law, nursing homes are inspected annually and fines are assessed for any deficiencies in compliance with federal regulations. If these fines exceed a certain level, a nursing home automatically loses its authority to train CNAs for two years,” said Melissa Andrews, President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia. “This ‘CNA Training Lockout’ runs counter to a nursing home’s ability to provide the highest quality of care and we appreciate the Senators for introducing legislation to overcome this barrier.”

“Having started my career in long term care as a nursing assistant, I know how critical they are to providing direct care to thousands of patients and residents every day. Ending the CNA training lockout will have a tremendously positive impact on our ability to train more caregivers to work in our nursing homes,” said David Tucker, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL) and President and COO of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke.

“Westminster Canterbury Richmond believes that a qualified workforce is crucial for the overall success of a nursing home to provide the highest quality of care. The training lockout is an obstacle to achieving this goal, and we believe this legislation is a positive step forward,” said John Burns, President and CEO of Westminster Canterbury Richmond, and a member of the LeadingAge Virginia Board of Directors.

“At a time where we need more individuals to choose the important and meaningful work of service to older adults throughout this country, limiting the ability to train future generations of care workers is not the answer,” said Rob Liebreich, President and CEO, Goodwin House Incorporated.

“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” said Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.

“Because of the CNA training lockout, we’ve reduced the number of qualified CNAs entering in the workforce, which has had a trickle-down effect on a facility the size of ours,” said Keith Denson, Administrator, Snyder Nursing Home, Inc., Salem, VA. “If we’re not training our people to take care of our unique and wonderful residents, who will do it? Training programs in the community lack the continuity of care and the CNA to resident experience that provider programs offer. I am very appreciative of the trust Sen. Warner has in our ability to train our staff to take care of our residents.”

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate of improving long-term care for seniors. In 2000, Sen. Warner’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, passing away in 2010 after battling the disease. Her diagnosis and the family’s subsequent struggle to find qualified care and support resources inspired Sen. Warner to launch SeniorNavigator.com, an online information and referral network for older Virginians and their caregivers. In the Senate, Sen. Warner serves as a Co-Chair of the Alzheimer’s Caucus and has helped lead efforts to secure robust funding for Alzheimer’s research, prevention, and treatment. He’s also introduced bipartisan legislation designed to give people with serious illnesses new tools to plan for their care, and empower them to have those choices honored. Sen. Warner has also sponsored legislation that allows seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive enhanced care in their homes – an effort to decrease hospital readmissions – and expand telehealth services for seniors to increase access to primary care services in rural communities. The Senate unanimously passed this bill in September of 2017, and the bill was signed into law in 2018.

The text of the Ensuring Seniors Access to Quality Care Act is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, joined Senate colleagues and leaders from HBCUs – including a student from Virginia Union University in Richmond – in calling on the Senate to pass the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would restore $255 million in federal funding for HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) that expired on September 30. While the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the FUTURE Act in September, Senate Republicans have blocked this critical legislation from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which stand to lose funding if the Senate fails to act.

“In Virginia, we’re talking about nearly $4 million in funding last year that is at risk unless we pass the FUTURE Act,” said Sen. Warner during today’s press conference. “This is an investment in our students. It’s an investment in the middle class. And it’s time for the federal government to live up its commitment.”

Sen. Warner was also joined today by Jalynn Hodges, a biology major currently serving as the first-ever elected student representative for the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union University (VUU), who underscored how renewing this funding would enable the Virginia Union community to continue to support students who pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“When I arrived at my prestigious HBCU in fall of 2017, I entered the gateway into my future. During my first year, I conducted research in our neuroscience and chemistry laboratory where I learned technical and analytical skills that are essential to my long-term academic and professional goals,” said Jalynn Hodges, biology major at VUU.  “With continued mandatory funding, students and faculty will be afforded access to ever changing equipment and laboratories that are consistent with industry standards. It is because of VUU that I am a better version of myself - one who is confident and assured that resources that have been afforded to me have prepared me for my graduate studies in medicine.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Warner joined more than three dozen Senators in a letter to Senate leaders calling for passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act legislation to renew this vital funding for Virginia’s HBCUs.

“As Virginia’s most affordable 4-year public university, Norfolk State provides access to a quality higher education in a culturally diverse and supportive learning environment. Failure to restore Title III Part F mandatory funding for HBCUs will represent more than a $5.8 million loss for NSU. Without this funding, Norfolk State’s educational programs in both teacher preparation and the STEM fields will be put at risk at a time when we are working to increase diversity in the front of our classrooms, and grow the pipeline of diverse STEM graduates to fill the jobs of the new economy. Norfolk State University expresses appreciation to Senators Warner and Kaine for their leadership on this critical issue, and urges all Senators to join them in securing the future of America’s HBCUs and the students they serve by passing the FUTURE Act,” said Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, President of Norfolk State University.

“Failure to pass the FUTURE Act will have serious consequences for America’s HBCUs, their students, and my peers. Norfolk State University’s supportive and culturally aware learning environment has helped me to grow as a leader and put me on the path to success. I would likely not have had these opportunities at other schools. All students regardless of their socio-economic background deserve access to a quality higher education and the opportunity to realize their full potential. It is time for Congress to stand with the students of America’s HBCUs by voting to pass the FUTURE Act,” said Linei Woodson, President of Norfolk State University’s Student Government Association.  

In the mid-1990s, as a successful tech entrepreneur, Warner – who is also a former member of the Board of Trustees at Virginia Union – helped to create the Virginia High-Tech Partnership (VHTP) to connect students attending Virginia’s five HBCUs with internship opportunities in tech firms across the Commonwealth.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, today joined 36 of their colleagues in a new push to pass funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senators called for the immediate passage of the bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would reauthorize $255 million in mandatory federal funding for these institutions, which expired on September 30, 2019. The House of Representatives approved the legislation unanimously in September.

“HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system,” the Senators wrote. “Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s historic colleges.”

Virginia is home to five HBCUs whose funding would be preserved by the FUTURE Act. Virginia State University, Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received nearly $4 million in funding last year, which is now at risk unless Congress passes the FUTURE Act.

Sens. Warner and Kaine continue to be longtime advocates of HBCUs. Earlier this year, both Senators supported the permanent reauthorization of the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which also includes a provision to support the preservation of HBCU campuses that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Last year, Virginia Union, Hampton University, Virginia State, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received grants totaling $2.27 million under the HBCU grant program.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was led by Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Jon Tester (D-MT) and signed by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

A copy of the letter can be found below.

 

November 4, 2019

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

We write today to respectfully request immediate Senate consideration of the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act. This important bipartisan legislation would reauthorize funding for Title III, Part F of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which provides mandatory funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and other minority serving-institutions (MSIs). Mandatory funding benefiting these institutions lapsed on September 30, 2019.

HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system. MSIs serve nearly 6 million students, accounting for more than one-quarter of all undergraduates across the nation. These institutions enroll a significant share of all students of color. For example, HSIs account for nearly 15 percent of all non-profit colleges and universities, but enroll two-thirds of all Hispanic students. Also, while HBCUs only comprise 8.5 percent of all four-year institutions, they enroll, on average, 24 percent of all black undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree, graduate 26 percent of all black bachelor’s degrees, and graduate 32 percent of STEM degrees earned by black students. The student population across all TCUs is 78 percent American Indian and Alaska Native. Similarly, these schools disproportionately enroll low-income students – more than 75 percent of students at HBCUs and 90 percent of students at TCUs receive Pell Grants, compared to only 32 percent of all students.

Title III, Part F funding is critical to ensuring these institutions are able to best serve their students. This funding is used for an array of purposes across campuses. Many schools use these funds to improve student services and academic programs like counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and STEM and career training programs. Numerous institutions use the funding to perform technology maintenance and expansion in order to provide students with up-to-date technology and vital learning opportunities such as computer labs, research institutes, and educational experiences. Others put the investment toward capital improvements like constructing affordable housing, renovating facilities, and creating learning spaces for students. All told, the Title III, Part F funding is a lifeline for these institutions to strengthen their academic, administrative, and fiscal capacities.

The bipartisan FUTURE Act will allow HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs across the country to keep their doors open and continue to generate more opportunities for their students, disproportionate percentages of whom are for the low-income students and students of color. This funding stream plays a vital role in increasing institutional capacity at MSIs and in generating more opportunities for students of color to attain degrees in STEM fields and secure good-paying jobs, generating a strong economic impact. HBCUs, for example, have created over 134,000 jobs and have produced over $10 billion in gross regional product and a total annual economic impact of nearly $15 billion. 

Unfortunately, funding for this program lapsed due to Senate inaction last month. The House of Representatives passed the FUTURE Act by a voice vote last month. Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s historic colleges.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to disclose more information regarding their investment in workers, such as turnover rates, amounts spent on employee training opportunities, and whether workers are considered full-time employees or contractors. Sen. Warner’s letter comes as the SEC considers public comments regarding its proposed modernization of Regulation S-K, the set of SEC rules that establish disclosure requirements for public companies.  

“As our nation continues to evolve and our economy becomes more knowledge-based, workers are easily becoming the most valuable asset a company can have. Human capital can affect a company’s potential, and when properly cultivated, can boost its ability to adapt, innovate, and compete,” said Sen. Warner, regarding the letter he sent to the SEC. “I appreciate the SEC’s commitment to fostering a culture of increased investment in our workers, but urge it to take this effort a step further by requiring companies to disclose exactly how they’re investing in their labor force.”

The SEC’s current proposed rule would require that companies broadly disclose human capital resources, measures, and objectives, but not necessarily specific metrics, which can be valuable for potential investors across a variety of industries.

In the letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, Sen. Warner applauded the SEC’s efforts and urged the SEC to take additional steps, including requiring disclosure of specific metrics related to worker training, turnover rates, and full versus part-time workers. This kind of information can be easily compared across industries and companies, and can help shareholders better understand risks to company performance, and potential long-term systemic risks to the economy.

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken advocate of investing in our workers, and ensuring they are adequately equipped to participate in the 21st century labor force. Earlier this year, the SEC announced this proposed rule following advocacy by Sen. Warner, who last year urged the Commission to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management.

The letter text can be found below and a PDF copy is available here.

 

The Honorable Jay Clayton

Chairman

Securities & Exchange Commission

100 F Street, N.E.

Washington, DC 20549

United States File Number S7-11-19

Dear Chairman Clayton,

I applaud the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (Commission’s) recent actions on the Modernization of Regulation S-K, particularly with regard to Item 101, and welcome the opportunity to comment on an issue that has long been a focus of mine. Human capital is among a company’s most valuable assets. It is critical to a firm’s ability to innovate, adapt, and compete as companies in the United States transition to a 21st-century knowledge-based economy. As the proposed rule notes, “intangible assets [including human capital] represent an essential resource for many companies.”

Beyond the value that human capital holds for a company itself, shareholders increasingly expect public companies to disclose material issues affecting a businesses’ financial performance – such as investments in human capital and worker training. These disclosures are relevant and important to shareholders, not only in order to better understand risks to company performance, but also to understand potential long-term systemic risks to the economy. You have also raised the issue of the importance of human capital disclosures to shareholders, most recently in May 2019 at the Investment Company Institute, stating, “If I am an investor looking at businesses today, I want to know what you are doing with your human talent, how you are growing your human talent, how you are accessing new talent, how you are retaining existing talent . . .”

The route that the Commission has taken with the proposed rule is encouraging, however, I believe the more appropriate route should be a principles-based approach that incorporates some prescriptive elements. As the Commission notes, the current human capital element in Item 101(c) “dates back to a time when companies relied significantly on plant, property, and equipment to drive value.” With regard to the Commission’s proposed amendments, I could not agree more that Item 101(c) should be modernized to include human capital resources, measures, and objectives as a disclosure topic. Further, I recognize the value that a principles-based approach holds for human capital management disclosures. Setting objectives and letting management judge what information best satisfies the disclosure requirements for the registrant is beneficial, but cannot be the entire picture. Human capital management, and the metrics used to measure it, differs from one industry to the next and even among companies within the same industry. A purely prescriptive approach may miss important subjective information, but a purely principles-based approach would fall short by losing the benefits of increased consistency and comparability for investors.

I understand that you have expressed concerns about the value of mandating certain metrics as disclosure items across all industries, but I encourage the Commission to consider the value of quantitative information that is of a high value to investors across a variety of industries. Specific disclosures make it easier to compare registrants, which is important to potential investors. You have commented on the importance of comparability yourself, for instance in February 2019 during a phone call with Investor Advisory Committee Members: “for human capital, I believe it is important that the metrics allow for period to period comparability for the company.” There are certain disclosure items, such as whether workers are full-time or contractors, turnover rates, and spending on employee training opportunities, that can provide universal value across all industries. I recognize the risk that prescriptive metrics can pose – that companies may “manage to the metric,” as the SEC Investment Advisory Committee put it. However, I encourage the Commission to engage with investors, registrants, and experts further to learn more about metrics that may serve useful purposes while minimizing unintended consequences.

With regard to the utility of non-exclusive examples, I believe that the Commission should provide these to registrants. Principles-based disclosure can lack direction. Examples will be especially useful for registrants when disclosing on new human capital management metrics.

I believe the addition of more human capital management disclosure requirements to Regulation S-K furthers the Commission’s mission to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $4,849,792 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through its Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative for communities in the Appalachian region of Virginia.

“We’re excited to support these investments to strengthen Virginia’s economy,” the Senators said. “This funding will help promote job growth, allow more people to access job training, and support rural businesses.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • The Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board in Lebanon, VA will receive $1,500,000 for the Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success (ROPES) project. The ROPES program combines recovery and treatment from substance abuse with reemployment opportunities and workforce development to create a recovery-to-employment pathway.
  • Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) in Christiansburg, VA will receive $1,039,500 for the Opportunity Appalachia project. ACC has worked with five organizations, including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, to develop a program that helps bring investment funding to federally designated Opportunity Zones in Central Appalachia. The initiative is estimated to bring in approximately $7.5 million in new investment in Central Appalachian coal communities, and will invest in 15 businesses and create 720 jobs, 70 of which are estimated to be for people recovering from substance abuse.
  • Appalachian Headwaters will receive $622,280 for the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective Diversification and Expansion project. Appalachian Headwaters aims to expand its programs focused on the apiculture (honey and bee products) industry to five counties in the Appalachian region of Virginia and 17 counties in southern West Virginia. The project will develop a training and marketing program for new bee products and services as well as create a new processing and training hub in Southwest Virginia.
  • The BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, VA will receive $1,000,000 for the BARC Rural Economic Development via Broadband project. The project will bring broadband access to 8 businesses and 301 households in Goshen.
  • Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Cedar Bluff, VA will receive $588,072 for the SWCC Automotive Service Excellence Center. The project will create a fast-track curriculum to prepare students for entry-level automobile technician positions.
  • The LENOWISCO Planning District Commission in Duffield, VA will receive $50,000 for the Technology Innovation Ecosystem for Rural Water Systems project. The project will identify innovative and emerging technologies that can be used to address potential leaks in small, rural public water systems.
  • Appalachian Voices will receive $49,940 for the Taking a Proven Energy Model to Scale project. The project will provide technical assistance to grow the emerging solar energy cluster in Central Appalachia. This funding will support a program in Southwest Virginia that helps building owners who want to use solar energy navigate the process of a commercial-scale solar installation. The program also pools purchasers together to reduce their costs.

The ARC’s POWER Initiative provides grants to communities that have been affected by severe job losses in the coal industry and the changing dynamics of America’s energy production. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $284,142 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to boost innovation and skills training in the Town of Pulaski, and to provide direct technical assistance for initiatives that help develop local economies and infrastructures in Virginia’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities

“As our economy continues to evolve, we need to make sure that we’re investing in workers across Appalachia and making sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed in new industries,” said the Senators. “We are glad to know that these grants will help set the groundwork for important skills training and economic development in the region.”

  • The Town of Pulaski will receive $44,142 for a project that will help create a plan for a training center and makerspace. The center will seek to increase the number of workers trained in skills needed in the region and provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to work. The plan will also assess the potential for programming to include individuals not traditionally able or inclined to seek training such as those pursuing second careers, post-incarceration, or post-addiction.
  • The Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development will receive $240,000 to assist in the administration of the Virginia ARC program, which helps promote long- and short-term economic development, infrastructure development, skills training, telecommunications, local capacity building, entrepreneurial assistance, education, and health care in the Commonwealth’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities. The funding will support direct technical assistance for initiatives in ARC communities, as well as the salaries and benefits for nine staffers.  

The funding was awarded through ARC, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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Washington, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, 45 Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella opposing the Labor Department’s recent proposal to undermine the highly effective and widely supported registered apprenticeship program. The proposed rule would create duplicative, unnecessary, and lower-quality “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” (IRAPs), that would not provide the same crucial benefits and protections as long-established registered apprenticeships. The Department has also proposed the establishment of new “standard recognition entities” to oversee the IRAPs, allowing these programs to potentially evade accountability, even to apprentices themselves.

“Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators also questioned whether the proposed rule is truly consistent with National Apprenticeship Act, which entrusted the Labor Department to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.” In February, Senator Murray and her colleagues pressed the Department of Labor for answers on the proposed rule and raised questions about whether the Department was using funds appropriated by Congress for registered apprenticeships for IRAPs.

In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 26, 2019

 The Honorable Patrick Pizzella

Acting Secretary

Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

RE: DOL Docket Number. ETA-2019-000, RIN 1205-AB85, Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations

Dear Acting Secretary Pizzella:

We write in strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“Department” or DOL) proposed rule to create Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs or “Industry Programs”), and to request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would undermine important standards around wages, training structure and quality, and equal opportunity employment, would create uncertainty for the regulated community by establishing a confusing, unnecessary, and duplicative program, and disregards congressional intent to “safeguard the welfare of apprentices.”[1]

In enacting the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, Congress authorized and directed the Secretary of Labor to formulate and promote labor standards to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.[2] The Department’s regulations implementing the Act establish such standards and prescribe policies and procedures for the registration of acceptable apprenticeship programs with the Department.[3] Under the Department’s longstanding regulations, apprenticeship programs seeking the Department’s approval, support, and financial assistance must commit to providing apprentices with a number of crucial protections and benefits.

The Department’s proposal, however, would not guarantee most of these benefits to apprentices who participate in IRAPs instead of registered apprenticeships.  This NPRM would enable so-called Industry Programs to circumvent the quality assurance standards and protections of the registered apprenticeship system. Instead, the Department proposes to authorize new, nongovernmental Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) to establish, recognize, and monitor the quality of IRAPs—with minimal accountability to the federal government, states, or apprentices themselves. We are especially concerned that the Department’s purported hallmarks of quality for IRAPs do not include some of the most crucial standards required of registered apprenticeship programs. In particular, this proposal would not require IRAPs to guarantee: minimum hours or specific requirements for on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction, nationally recognized stackable and portable credentials of value, workplace safety and equal opportunity protections beyond those already required by law, or guaranteed wage progression.

It is not clear how the Department’s proposal to upend registered apprenticeship is consistent with Congressional intent. The National Apprenticeship Act empowers the Department to “bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeships”—that is not what the Department proposes. Rather, this rule would create a parallel system that outsources the Secretary’s statutory role in overseeing the Nation’s registered apprenticeship programs to unaccountable, nongovernmental entities.

The Department’s proposal is yet one more attempt to undermine the Nation’s registered apprenticeship system, which has existed for 80 years and enjoys broad support from Congress, workers, and industry alike. The Department undercuts the standards that have been the hallmark of registered apprenticeships by allowing IRAPs to bypass the Department’s longstanding approval and quality assurance process, removing the crucial role of state governments in maintaining the integrity of programs operating within their states, substantially weakening protections and guarantees for workers, and causing confusion for businesses and industries. This is particularly troubling coming on the heels of the Department’s repeated attempts to divert the annual discretionary appropriation to support the development of IRAPs, despite the Department having acknowledged on record that it must be spent exclusively on the registered apprenticeships in accordance with the law.

The Department asserts its proposed “industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap.” However, the Department has presented no evidence showing IRAPS will be effective, let alone superior, to registered apprenticeship programs. On the contrary, existing apprenticeship programs have one of the highest rates of return on investment for employers of any workforce advancement programs.  Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs.

We oppose the Department’s efforts to water down the quality of apprenticeship programs by removing worker protections, lowering the quality of credentials and training, and providing federal funds to unaccountable organizations to provide unproven training. We urge the Department to reconsider its proposal. We also request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the NPRM to allow Congress, stakeholders, and the public adequate time to respond to these potential changes, as well as a Departmental briefing on the proposal as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $17,417,978 in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children,” the Senators said. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.” 

The following organizations will receive funding:

  • Stafford County School District will receive $2,604,803.
  • Rooftop of Virginia Community Action Program in Galax will receive $2,400,889.
  • Southside Training Employment and Placement Services Inc. in Farmville will receive $3,245,314.
  • Richmond City Public Schools will receive $7,838,807.
  • Williamsburg James City County Community Action Agency Inc. will receive $1,328,165.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

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