Press Releases

WASHINGTON – The Senate Finance Committee today voted 28-0 to advance the Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act. The legislation includes a bipartisan proposal from Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to make it easier for tens of thousands of retired firefighters and police officers like Wally Bunker from Culpeper to get a tax benefit to pay for health coverage they’ve earned. Warner introduced the measure, which has been endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, and International Association of Fire Fighters, with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Thune (R-SD) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) last month.

“Virginia’s first responders put themselves at risk every day to protect our communities – the least we can do is ensure that they are taken care of in retirement,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Finance Committee, after voting to approve the legislation today. “This commonsense bill will make it easier for retired fire fighters and police officers to access quality healthcare after a career of working to keep our communities and our families safe.”  

Many public safety officers retire early because of the unique physical demands and hazards they face on the job. As a result, many lose access to their employer-sponsored health coverage but are still years away from being eligible for Medicare. To alleviate the burden of paying out-of-pocket for health insurance, Congress included in the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety (HELPS) Retirees Act a provision that allows retired public safety officers to withdraw $3,000 tax-free from their pension plan annually to pay health or long-term care insurance premiums. The 2006 law required that pension plans pay the $3,000 directly to the insurer — but many smaller pension plans in Virginia and other states use a third-party system for disbursing payments, therefore preventing many retirees from accessing the benefit.

The Warner-Brown-Thune-Grassley proposal, which would eliminate the “direct pay” provision and ensure that retired first responders in Virginia can access the benefit, was incorporated into a larger package of retirement reforms passed by the Senate Finance Committee today as part of the EARN Act. The EARN Act is expected to be combined with a related set of proposals that were approved earlier this month by the HELP Committee, and the comprehensive package will be put before the full Senate sometime in the coming weeks.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Sherrod Brown (D-OH) encouraged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to continue focusing on improving human capital disclosures and on reforms that would ensure shareholders can properly evaluate public companies’ human capital practices and investments in their workers. The letter urges the SEC to implement the recommendations included in a petition from the Working Group on Human Capital Accounting Disclosure, which seeks to level the playing field between investments in workers and investments in physical equipment.

“As the Commission considers improvements to Regulation S-K and human capital disclosure, the working group’s recommendations would go a long way in ensuring shareholders can properly evaluate public companies’ human capital practices and investments in their workers. Strengthening human capital disclosure is needed to reflect the modern economy, where public firms are increasingly deriving their value from intangible assets,” the senators wrote. 

They continued, “Human capital does not receive the same treatment as even R&D in this respect, placing spending on workers at a further disadvantage. Unlike R&D, human capital spending is included as part of a company’s administrative expenses and not as a stand-alone item. As a result, investors are not given the information to differentiate between a firm with poor human capital management and one that is making a concerted effort to invest in its workforce to increase worker capability and performance.”

On June 7, 2022 the Working Group on Human Capital Accounting Disclosures petitioned the Commission to improve human capital disclosures including the following recommendations: 

  1. Requiring managers to disclose, in the Management’s Discussion & Analysis section of Form 10-K, what portion of investments in workers should be considered as an investment in the firm’s future growth to allow investors to distinguish between labor expenses and value-adding investments, like training or upskilling;
  2. Treating workforce costs similar to investments in R&D by ensuring workforce costs are disclosed; and
  3. Disaggregating labor costs to allow investors to clearly understand employees’ job function, expected value creation, and contributions to their company.

Since 2018, Sen. Warner has stressed the importance of updating human capital disclosure requirements to reflect the priorities of modern companies. Sen. Warner has long focused on prioritizing better reporting on human capital management and on making sure that companies are not discouraged – based on accounting or reporting rules – from investing in their workers. In a May 2020 letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Sen. Warner and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) urged the SEC to require that human capital management information be 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.

In May 2021, Sen. Warner and Rep. Axne reintroduced the Workforce Investment Disclosure Act to require public companies to disclose crucial workforce management metrics, including investments made in skills training, workforce safety, and employee retention. Sen. Warner also leads legislation, the Investing in American Workers Act, modeled on the R&D tax credit to further incentivize investments in companies’ most important asset, their workers.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Chairman Gensler,

We are writing to urge the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to adopt the recommendations included in the Working Group on Human Capital Accounting Disclosure’s petition to the Commission on June 7, 2022. As the Commission considers improvements to Regulation S-K and human capital disclosure, the working group’s recommendations would go a long way in ensuring shareholders can properly evaluate public companies’ human capital practices and investments in their workers. Strengthening human capital disclosure is needed to reflect the modern economy, where public firms are increasingly deriving their value from intangible assets.

We applaud the SEC for working on improvements to human capital disclosures as part of its regulatory agenda. In 2018, Senator Warner urged the Commission to focus on the treatment of human capital and noted the significant discrepancy between the treatment of physical investments and spending on human capital and research and development (R&D). A physical investment can be listed on a balance sheet and is often capitalized, whereas human capital and R&D investments are expensed. R&D is disclosed on its own expenditure line – reflective of its importance for firms’ valuation, competitiveness, and long-term performance – so that investors can assess company expenditures on R&D separately from other firm costs.

Human capital does not receive the same treatment as even R&D in this respect, placing spending on workers at a further disadvantage. Unlike R&D, human capital spending is included as part of a company’s administrative expenses and not as a stand-alone item. As a result, investors are not given the information to differentiate between a firm with poor human capital management and one that is making a concerted effort to invest in its workforce to increase worker capability and performance. The strengthened human capital disclosure must be focused on the discrepancy laid out above.

To do so, we respectfully urge the SEC to adopt the Working Group’s recommendations to improve human capital disclosures. Those recommendations include:

  1. Requiring managers to disclose, in the Management’s Discussion & Analysis section of Form 10-K, what portion of investments in workers should be considered as an investment in the firm’s future growth to allow investors to distinguish between labor expenses and value-adding investments, like training or upskilling;
  2. Treating workforce costs similar to investments in R&D by ensuring workforce costs are disclosed; and
  3. Disaggregating labor costs to allow investors to clearly understand employees’ job function, expected value creation, and contributions to their company.

These quantifiable and comparable disclosures would significantly improve investors’ ability to understand firms’ human capital practices. While there are tradeoffs and costs associated with mandating additional disclosures, firms already collect most of this information for tax reporting. In addition, few could argue that these disclosures would be unimportant for investors, particularly at a time when public companies’ value is increasingly determined by intangible assets like its workforce.

We look forward to continued engagement with the SEC on this critical issue, and appreciate your consideration of these recommendations as the Commission moves forward with updating Regulation S-K to strengthen human capital disclosures. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) applauded the Senate passage of their Air America Act of 2021. The legislation, first introduced by Warner and Rubio in July 2020, would provide Air America employees with the federal retirement credit they earned.

“I’m very pleased to know that Air Americans are one step closer to receiving the retirement benefits and recognition they deserve for their courage during the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia,” Sen. Warner said. “These individuals courageously supported troops, rescued downed American pilots and sustained casualties in the line of duty. Passing this bill is the least we can do to honor their service to our country."

“The brave men and women employed by Air America who conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War were critical to U.S. efforts,” Sen. Rubio said. “I’m pleased that this bill has passed the Senate, and I hope the House will swiftly do the same, so that these Americans can receive the long-overdue honor and recognition they deserve.”

Air America was a wholly government-owned and operated corporation that conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Their employees worked under the direct policy guidance of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Air America employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, and approximately 286 were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. The last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon in 1975 was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps. 

Since 2009, the declassification of CIA Agency documents confirmed that Air Americans were employees of the U.S. Government at the time of their service and entitled to federal retirement credit based on the circumstances of their employment. Congress has maintained its interest in resolving the retirement situation of Air American employees for more than 15 years. During this process, the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence have all concluded that congressional action is required.

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 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Thune (R-SD), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation to allow retired first responders to withdraw from their retirement without being penalized. The senators’ legislation would improve and reform the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety Act (HELPS), by changing state and local direct payment requirements from mandatory to optional, and creating an alternative to the current method, allowing the retirement system to make the distribution to the retired public safety officer. The retiree can then make the premium payment to the provider and remain eligible for the tax exclusion.

“Virginia’s first responders put themselves at risk every day to protect our communities – the least we can do is ensure that they are taken care of in retirement,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Police and Fire Health Care Protection Act of 2022, which will make it easier for tens of thousands of retired officers – like Mr. Wally Bunker, a stalwart advocate and retired police officer from Culpepper – to claim the benefits that they have earned.”

“Ohio firefighters and other first responders wear their bodies out protecting our families and communities, and they shouldn’t have to worry about being penalized for withdrawing from retirement that they’ve earned,” said Sen. Brown. “This is a simple solution that allows first responders to keep their own money and alleviate pressure on state and local governments.”

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to our retired police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who dedicated their lives to protecting our communities and keeping our friends, families, and neighbors across South Dakota safe,” said Sen. Thune. “Currently, it is extremely difficult for retired first responders to utilize an existing benefit that helps cover certain health care expenses, which is why I introduced this legislation that would ensure these retirees can make tax-free withdrawals from their pension and direct those amounts to qualifying insurance premiums.

“First responders play a vital role in our communities, addressing a variety of high-stress emergency situations throughout their careers. All first responders ought to be able to take advantage of a tax benefit that is intended to help them access health coverage in retirement,” said Sen. Grassley.

In order to implement the direct payment requirement under current law, state and local retirement systems are now responsible for directly paying often numerous health and long-term care providers and keeping track of changes to premium amounts and payment deadlines for thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of retirees. This already challenging task is made even more difficult because providers will often communicate only with the retiree policyholder and not with the retirement system. Information does not flow seamlessly, and inadvertent errors are made. In addition, due to the complexity, some retirement systems have made the decision to not implement HELPS, thereby resulting in retired public safety officers covered by these pension plans being ineligible for the tax benefit.

“Too often fire fighters are forced to retire early and have no access to affordable health insurance. We owe it to our fire fighters and EMS providers to help them access quality healthcare after making a career’s worth of physical and mental sacrifices for our communities,” said Edward Kelly, General President, International Association of Fire Fighters. “This legislation ensures our retired fire fighters can access their hard-earned retirement income to pay for health insurance costs. The IAFF thanks Senators Brown, Thune, Warner, and Grassley for their commitment to supporting our retirees and helping them to maintain a healthy and secure retirement.”

“In 2006, Congress enacted the HELPS Retirees Act, which provided a modest tax benefit to help retired public safety officers afford health insurance by allowing the use, on a pre-tax basis, of up to $3,000 annually from their pension funds health care and long-term care insurance,” said Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police. “However, too many public safety officers were ineligible or lost their eligibility for this benefit because of the law’s ‘direct pay’ requirement. This means that the public pension system must pay the health or long-term care insurance company directly in order to exclude these payments from the employee’s gross income.  Officers whose pensions are or came to be administered by third parties could not take advantage of this tax break. We are very grateful to Senators Brown and Thune for introducing legislation which repeals this direct pay requirement and provides a modest increase to the benefit.”

“On behalf of Ohio’s and the nation’s public safety personnel we are grateful to Senator Brown for his leadership on this issue. The new legislation will ensure that first responders receive the assistance Congress intended them to receive with their health care expenses in retirement,” said Mary Beth Foley, Executive Director, Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F).

Under the senators’ bill, plans that are able to implement HELPS through the current direct payment method, possibly because they have only one or two providers to pay and a small number of retirees, may continue to do so. However, for the many retirement systems that are experiencing administrative problems with the current requirement or have refused to implement HELPS because of the burdens, the senator’s legislation will allow them to make distributions to their retirees without rendering the retiree ineligible for the tax exclusion.

In cases where the distribution is made to the retiree, the legislation would require the retiree to include with their tax return an attestation that the amount sought to be excluded from the pension distribution does not exceed the amount paid by the employee for qualified health insurance premiums for the taxable year. The tax exclusion is capped under current law at $3,000 per year.

The bill has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding for the Appalachian Veterinary Expansion project. The funding will be used to support construction of a new Veterinary Education and Technology (VET) building at Lincoln Memorial University-College of Veterinary Medicine’s (LMU-CVM) DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center Campus (DVTC) in Ewing. The project will also increase the number of students in the region and attract new sources of investment in the Cumberland Gap region.

“We’re glad this federal funding will be used for the construction of a new building at the DeBusk Veterinary Teaching Center Campus,” said the Senators. “This investment will help train more aspiring veterinarians and spur economic growth in Lee County and the surrounding region.”

LMU-CVM welcomed its inaugural class in 2014 and is the first veterinary school dedicated to serving Appalachia. In August 2014, Kaine visited LMU-CVM's campus to tour the facilities and learn about the school’s programs.

The funding was awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, which provides federal resources to help create jobs in existing or new industries for communities affected by job losses in the coal industry. The Appalachian Veterinary Expansion project also received a $2 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chairman of the committee, today called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require companies to report on how many workers they employ who are not classified as full-time employees, including independent and subcontracted workers.

“We believe that the disclosure of this data is critical to fully capture companies’ human capital management. We applaud the SEC for focusing on strengthening human capital disclosures as part of its regulatory agenda,” wrote the senators in a letter to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. “It is clear that investors need more information to understand how companies treat people, the most critical asset of any company. We agree that investors need disclosures that include quantifiable and comparable datasets that clearly articulate a company’s human capital management, such as metrics on turnover, skills and development training, compensation, benefits, workforce demographic, and health and safety… That picture would be wholly incomplete, however, if companies are not required to disclose information about the number of independent contractors they use on a regular basis and the entire workforce that is material to their business strategy.”

Examples of subcontracted out workers considered part of the material workforce include security personnel, janitors, food service workers, housekeepers for hotels and lodging real estate investment trusts (REIT), and custodial workers.

“In recent decades, companies have replaced in-house operations with contracting, on-demand work, or other forms of independent and contracted work that lower short-term costs for the business but come at the expense of workers, who receive fewer benefits, lower wages, and have less upward mobility within the organization. This is one of the defining tensions that has emerged as companies have prioritized short-term profits at the expense of investments in their workforce and long-term productivity. As you know, these decisions have material effects on a business’ financial performance,” the senators noted.

Concluded the senators, “We appreciate the SEC is working towards the shared goal of ensuring that investors and shareholders have the information they need to understand companies’ human capital management, a critical piece of understanding a company’s performance as well as potential long-term, systemic risks to the U.S. economy. We urge you to ensure that future SEC rulemaking captures this long-term trend of companies’ increasing use of outsourcing, independent contractors, and subcontracting, which will be a critical data point in understanding companies’ human capital management.”

Sen. Warner, a former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has long stressed the importance of updating human capital disclosure requirements to reflect the priorities of modern companies. In May, Sen. Warner introduced the Workforce Investment Disclosure Act, which would require public companies to disclose basic human capital metrics, including workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, workforce engagement, and compensation statistics.

A full copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Chairman Gensler:

We are writing to urge the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ensure that, as part of its agenda to improve human capital disclosure, companies report on the numbers of their workers who are not classified as full-time employees, including independent contractors, as well as the entire workforce that is material to the company and its investors (the “material workforce”) such as subcontracted workers. We believe that the disclosure of this data is critical to fully capture companies’ human capital management.

We applaud the SEC for focusing on strengthening human capital disclosures as part of its regulatory agenda. It is clear that investors need more information to understand how companies treat people, the most critical asset of any company. We agree that investors need disclosures that include quantifiable and comparable datasets that clearly articulate a company’s human capital management, such as metrics on turnover, skills and development training, compensation, benefits, workforce demographic, and health and safety. As you have indicated in prior remarks, “Large and small investors, representing literally tens of trillions of dollars, are looking for consistent, comparable, and decision-useful disclosures in these areas to determine whether to invest, sell, or make a voting decision one way or another.”

That picture would be wholly incomplete, however, if companies are not required to disclose information about the number of independent contractors they use on a regular basis and the entire workforce that is material to their business strategy. Examples of subcontracted out workers that should be considered part of the material workforce include security personnel, janitors, food service workers, housekeepers for hotels and lodging real estate investment trusts (REIT), and custodial workers. In recent decades, companies have replaced in-house operations with contracting, on-demand work, or other forms of independent and contracted work that lower short-term costs for the business but come at the expense of workers, who receive fewer benefits, lower wages, and have less upward mobility within the organization. This is one of the defining tensions that has emerged as companies have prioritized short-term profits at the expense of investments in their workforce and long-term productivity. As you know, these decisions have material effects on a business’ financial performance. 

We appreciate the SEC is working towards the shared goal of ensuring that investors and shareholders have the information they need to understand companies’ human capital management, a critical piece of understanding a company’s performance as well as potential long-term, systemic risks to the U.S. economy. We urge you to ensure that future SEC rulemaking captures this long-term trend of companies’ increasing use of outsourcing, independent contractors, and subcontracting, which will be a critical data point in understanding companies’ human capital management. 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announcement making available an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year (FY) 2022. These visas will be set aside for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers on or before March 31, 2022:

“I’m grateful that the Biden administration is making these additional visas available. Every year, my office hears from seafood businesses about how difficult it is to fulfill labor needs in an industry with incredibly demanding and temporary jobs like processing crabs and shucking oysters. These businesses – often small and family-owned – live in a constant state of worry, unsure whether they’ll have to cancel contacts because they can’t get the workers that they need. While this announcement is welcome, additional visas will be needed in the spring, when our seafood processors face their busiest season of the year. Moving forward, I will continue to push for reforms to the H-2B visa program to ensure our processors have the labor certainty they need for their businesses to grow and thrive.” 

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs. 

Sen. Warner has long advocated for the expansion of H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia have the seasonal workforce they need. Earlier this year Sen. Warner, joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) urged the Biden administration to make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas to support local seafood businesses.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded two grants totaling $2,966,029 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded to Southwest Virginia to strengthen the region’s workforce development initiatives and outdoor recreation economy. The first is a $1,466,029 grant awarded to the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge for the development of workforce training opportunities to help individuals in the region gain key skills for good jobs. The second is a $1,500,000 grant awarded to Russell County for the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project that will help support increased tourism in the region and create jobs.

“We’re glad to see these grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission go toward education, job training, and economic development opportunities in Southwest Virginia,” the Sens. said. “We will continue to champion policies that create jobs, grow our economy, and provide greater opportunities for families across the Commonwealth."

The grant awarded to Dabney S. Lancaster Community College will go toward the Appalachian Hardwood Training Initiative (AHTI) and will develop training opportunities for people working in sawmills and wood manufacturing facilities throughout the ARC region, as well as underemployed individuals in the region. Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. members have identified key skills needed by the industry to address current gaps. The program aims to train workers to improve their skills and get jobs.

The grant awarded to Russell County, Virginia will go toward the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project, which will involve the construction of the Three Rivers Destination Center (TRDC) in the middle of Virginia's coalfield region and serve as a hub to grow tourism in Southwest Virginia. The grant will create 16 new jobs and support $1.4 million in increased revenues for the area's businesses and government. The TRDC will highlight the area's recreational assets, help visitors plan trips, and connect tourists with regional amenities and businesses. The center will be located close to the Clinch River State Park, the Jefferson National Forest, Breaks Interstate Park, and other recreational amenities. The center will also serve as headquarters for area tourism organizations, which promote the 600+ regional tourism assets responsible for employing over 1,900 people with a payroll of $40 million throughout the 7-county region. The investment will help support increased tourism and spending, promote entrepreneurship, and help address the negative economic impacts from the downturn of the coal industry.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation today to put an end to future government shutdowns, such as the one that would happen later this week absent cooperation from Senate Republicans, who voted to block legislation that would have kept the government funded through December 3.

The Stop STUPIDITY (Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years) Act would protect federal workers and employees, who are often forced to go without pay during government shutdowns, by keeping the government running in the case of a lapse in funding. This legislation would also help prevent the chaos that shutdowns can wreak on the lives of veterans, seniors, and other Americans who rely on timely government services. Additionally, it would help prevent the kind of backlogs and delays commonly associated with government shutdowns, including those affecting the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“Our nation’s federal workers have worked day-in and day-out during the pandemic to make sure that American families and businesses can count on the government in their time of need. I can’t think of a worse way to repay these civil servants than by shutting down the government in the midst of an ongoing health and economic crisis. My legislation would spare federal workers from the volatility of government shutdowns, and preserve the stability our government necessitates as we continue to fight COVID-19,” said Sen. Warner.

In the past, government shutdowns have left federal employees no other recourse than to drain their savings, tank their credit, or choose between putting food on the table or keeping a roof above their heads. The Stop STUPIDITY Act would allow federal workers to keep receiving a paycheck during shutdowns by automatically renewing government funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year, with adjustments for inflation. This legislation would fund all aspects of the government, except for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President – effectively forcing Congress and the White House to come to the negotiating table without putting the economy at risk or hurting the American public. 

A copy of the bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) introduced legislation to provide much-needed tax relief to working artists by updating the Qualified Performing Artist (QPA) tax deduction, which allows certain performing artists to deduct the cost of expenses incurred in the course of their employment. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act would update the thresholds of the QPA deduction to ensure that more lower- and middle-income artists can benefit from the tax break.

The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is endorsed by numerous organizations advocating for the rights of emerging artists, including the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, the Actors’ Equity Association, the Theatre Communications Group, the Recording Academy, and the Nashville Songwriters Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for performers and artists,” Sen. Warner said. “Even as widespread vaccinations allow venues to reopen, many actors, musicians and performing artists are still struggling to recover. I’m glad to be working on a bipartisan solution to help ease some of the burden on working artists during a very difficult time.”

“As a son of Tennessee and my state’s former Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, I appreciate how vital our entertainment sector is to both Tennessee’s rich culture and its economy,” Sen. Hagerty said. “I’m pleased to introduce and work on a bipartisan basis with Senator Warner on this important legislation that will help Tennessee’s creative industry and the performing artists who make it truly thrive. Under our legislation, lower- and middle-income performing artists from Mountain City to Memphis will get to keep much more of their hard-earned wages because it updates a Reagan-era tax deduction that helps artists account for the costs of work-related expenses and adjusts it for the damaging impacts of inflation.”

The Qualified Performing Artist tax deduction has not been updated since its inception in 1986 and is currently only available to those making less than $16,000 a year, meaning that very few artists qualify. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will update and increase the income ceiling to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married joint filers, allowing many more lower and middle-income performing artists to receive tax relief for work-related expenses. 

A copy of the bill text can be found here. Companion legislation has been sponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).   

“I want to thank Senator Mark Warner and Senator Bill Hagerty for drafting and introducing this important legislation. They are great champions of the creative professionals that keep our industry successful,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher. "We have been fighting for this legislation because it will allow working class entertainment and media professionals legitimate deductions so that they can retain more of their hard earned money during these most challenging times.”

“I am grateful for the leadership of Senators Warner and Hagerty as they fight for tax fairness for performing artists while the industry is in a historic crisis,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “The overwhelming majority of Equity stage managers and actors are working-class people who work hard to make ends meet, and unlike other workers, they often have to spend 30 percent of their income on business expenses. Our producers can deduct their business expenses, and we should be able to do so too. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act will put more money in the pockets of working performers when they need it the most as we work toward recovery in the arts sector.”

“Ensuring union creative professionals can once again deduct work expenses is a top priority for DPE and our affiliated unions in the arts, entertainment, and media industries. We commend Senators Warner and Hagerty for introducing this important legislation in the Senate, which will put money back in the hands of hard-working, middle class professionals,” said Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) President Jennifer Dorning.

“As the Senate Finance Committee moves to complete deliberations on its fiscal 2022 tax proposals, it should be noted that the more than 80,000 professional musicians of the American Federation Musicians have long used the Qualified Performing Arts Tax Parity Act provisions of the IRS code to recover usual and necessary expenses that employers in this industry have for decades refused to reimburse,” said AFM President Ray Hair. Working musicians continue to struggle while recovering from the loss of a bulk of their live music performance income due to the COVID19 pandemic. The Performing Artist Tax Parity Act is sensible legislation that we can all agree on.  It will restore these deductions and help musicians and other entertainment professionals recover from the ravages of the pandemic, which brought our industry to a screeching halt, while helping working artists and their families become whole again.”

“I commend Senators Warner and Hagerty for joining Representatives Chu and Buchanan in putting aside partisanship to help thousands of middle class behind-the-scenes entertainment workers and creative professionals,” stated IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “The inability to deduct work expenses has been hurting our members long before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down our work and wiped out our wages. Now, with a full return to work in sight, Congress should pass this bill, establish tax fairness, and ensure our workers come back stronger than before.”

“Theatre Communications Group is pleased to endorse the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act, a tax correction sorely needed by performing artists, especially now, as their lives have been upended by COVID-19,” said Laurie Baskin, Director of Advocacy for Theatre Communications Group.

“RIAA strongly supports this bipartisan effort to make the tax code work for artists and musicians. This legislation will strengthen our music ecosystem and create new jobs and opportunities in touring, recording, and more – all while opening the door just a little wider for the next generation trying to break through. We applaud Senators Warner and Hagerty for fighting for tax fairness for working artists and musicians,” said RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN-3) and David Cicilline (D-RI-1) led a number of their congressional colleagues in a bicameral request urging President Biden to form an initiative to coordinate federal policies that will reshape and rebuild the economy so that it works for all. In a pair of letters penned by the three Senators and 18 House Representatives, the lawmakers requested that the proposed White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth – originally envisioned by a coalition of impact-oriented organizations – build on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to address three monumental crises facing the nation: the COVID-19 economic fallout; a widening racial wealth gap; and climate change.

“While we support passing much of your Build Back Better Agenda through a budget reconciliation package, we believe it is also essential that the Administration prioritize executive action to reform capitalism in such a way that short-term profits and shareholder primacy no longer take center stage,” wrote the Senators. “A White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth could play a central coordinating role between policy councils, executive agencies, and independent agencies in promoting equitable economic policy. The Initiative could also serve to convene private sector and civil society organizations that increasingly recognize the critical nature of a transition towards stakeholder capitalism.”

The Senators continued, “By changing the incentives for corporations and investors, we can lessen the disregard too often shown towards workers, environmental harms, or racial and gender inequity. And by renewing focus on community investing, we can work to mitigate the historic harms of disinvestment in Black, brown, tribal, and rural communities.”

In a separate letter, the House Representatives wrote, “The past year has exacerbated existing crises and brought the United States to an existential crossroads. The pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, systemic racial injustice, and the rising threat of climate change call for bold but necessary action: rebuilding our economy so that it works for all Americans. To address these issues, we need to change the underlying structures that have perpetuated them.”

“Several agencies are already beginning to prioritize more inclusive economic growth and community investing, including Treasury, the SEC, the Department of Commerce and others. In order to realize the full potential of these reforms across the federal government, we need coordination and prioritization from the Biden Administration,” they continued. “The principles behind stakeholder capitalism and community investing are increasingly being embraced across industries and in both the public and private sectors. With this new Initiative, we believe the White House can tap into a growing movement and ensure we transform these ideas into lasting, impactful policy.”

This bicameral effort has the support of organizations like B Lab and USIIA.

“We are motivated and excited by the support we are seeing for the White House Initiative on Inclusive Economic Growth. Now, more than ever, we have the momentum to drive inclusive economic growth through a partnership with the White House and Congress, have a say in rules and incentives for many of our decision-makers in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street, and catalyze new investment for small businesses that line Main Street,” said Andrew Kassoy, co-founder and CEO of B Lab, a global network of organizations transforming the global economic system and one of the more than 50 organizations calling for the proposed White House Initiative.

“We are thankful for the leadership and support we have received from Sen. Warner, Reps. Phillips and Cicilline and many of their colleagues. The proposed initiative is the brainchild of more than 50 organizations that have dedicated their work to driving impact for underserved communities and in turn, building toward a more just and equitable economy. We look forward to partnering with Congress, the Administration and peers in the private sector on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better and ensure that local economies and the capital markets work for all Americans,”said Fran Seegull, president of U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, one of the more than 50 organizations calling for the proposed White House Initiative.

Joining Reps. Phillips and Cicilline in the House letter are U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY-05), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-09), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), André Carson (D-IN-07), Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-09), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-07), Donald Beyer Jr. (D-VA-08), and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04).

Full text of the Senate letter is available here. Text of the House letter is available here. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner and Senator Tim Kaine, co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, announced $2,699,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA)’s YouthBuild grant program to provide job training and education for at-risk youth. 

“These dollars will provide additional resources for at-risk young Virginians and help put them on a path toward successful careers,” the Senators said. “These federal investments in community-based job programs will be crucial to our country’s economic recovery.”

Warner and Kaine have been leaders in the Senate on efforts to support skills training programs to prepare students and workers for good-paying, in-demand jobs. In March, Kaine reintroduced the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, cosponsored by Warner, to help improve access to job training programs by expanding Pell Grant eligibility. In May, Kaine also reintroduced the Assisting Community Colleges in Educating Skilled Students (ACCESS) to Careers Act to boost student success and career readiness. 

YouthBuild is a pre-apprenticeship program that provides education and work training opportunities for vulnerable youth ages 16-24 who dropped out of high school. As part of the program, these young Americans will split time between job training and the classroom, where they earn high school diplomas or equivalency degrees and prepare for postsecondary training opportunities. This national program serves more than 6,000 youth annually in more than 40 states. 

The funding will be distributed as follows: 

Recipient

City

Amount

New River-Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Area Consortium

Radford

$1,500,000

Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Roanoke

$1,199,000

Total:

$2,699,000

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in urging the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to side with American workers and fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, Warner, Brown, and Portman led their colleagues in pressing the ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworker’s petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports. Warner, Brown, and Portman led this letter with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Todd Young (R-IN), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Boozman (R-AR), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

“U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced,” the Senators wrote.

For years, United Steelworkers at tire companies including Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, have found themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage due to unfairly traded foreign imports. The United Steelworkers’ trade petitions seeks to secure relief for their members in the tire industry to ensure the U.S. tire industry can compete on a level playing field.  

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

The Honorable Jason Kearns

Chairman

United States International Trade Commission

500 E Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20436

Dear Chairman Kearns:

We write on behalf of U.S. passenger vehicle and lightweight tire (PVLT) manufacturers and their workers who face ongoing challenges from unfairly traded tire imports in the above referenced cases and to reiterate our support for strong enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws.  

The U.S. tire industry has been marked by unfair trade from foreign competitors for years.  In 2009, President Obama imposed Section 421 tariffs on Chinese tire imports to address the systemic dumping of tires in the U.S. market.  After the tariffs expired, USW tire-producing members again faced unfair competition, and the union filed antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty petitions in 2014.  AD and CVD orders have been in place on certain Chinese PVLT imports since.  Unfortunately, other foreign competitors are employing unfair practices to gain market share in the U.S. while Chinese tire imports face additional duties.  As a result, the USW union recently filed the AD and CVD petitions against tire producers in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced.  

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – With more and more businesses rooted in service and intellectual property, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) reintroduced legislation today to require public companies to disclose crucial workforce management metrics, including investments made in skills training, workforce safety, and employee retention. 

“In our information-based economy, workers are easily one of the most valuable assets that a company can have. However, there continues to be too much variability among public companies when it comes to disclosing human capital metrics,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will help provide a clearer picture of how public companies are managing, supporting, and investing in their workers – factors that significantly influence a company’s ability to innovate and compete.”

“Over the past century, we’ve seen businesses become less reliant on physical assets and more reliant on their workers, but the public disclosures we ask of our businesses don’t cover the investments they’re making in their employees,” said Rep. Axne. “We expect our public companies to disclose their holdings and their balance sheets – but in an economy that needs people in order to be productive, we must keep that same transparency to make the U.S. a leader in helping investors understand the long-term prospects of the companies they’re investing in. The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized how important this information is, especially when it comes to workplace health and safety or the ability to work from home.”

In 1975, more than 80 percent of the S&P 500’s market value was in companies’ tangible assets, such as real estate holdings or purchased equipment. By 2015, tangible assets accounted for less than 20 percent.

The Workforce Investment Disclosure Act would require public companies to disclose basic human capital metrics, which have an increasingly high value across industries in our 21st century economy. These metrics include workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, workforce engagement, and compensation statistics. This legislation would build on existing disclosure requirements, which do not currently provide sufficient information for potential workers and investors looking to evaluate modern businesses. 

“This bill takes disclosure on every company’s most valuable asset, People, out of the shadows and into the light. Every public and private company should be sharing these metrics in their public disclosures.” Jeff Higgins, founder and CEO of Human Capital Management Institute. 

"We know that human health, safety, and well-being are material to businesses’ bottom line, and human-centered policy interventions are critical to improving employee health, engagement and productivity,” said Rachel Hodgdon, President and CEO of the International WELL Building Institute. “We commend Representative Axne and Senator Warner for their continued leadership and introduction of the Workforce Investment Disclosure Act. This bill, which takes a significant step forward on driving transparency and incentivizing investment in the workforce, will help ensure businesses prioritize the overall welfare of their most valuable asset - their people. By simply compelling businesses to report on their workforce management policies, we can accelerate better corporate practices, recognize market leaders and spur powerful investments in the health, safety and equity of employees around the country."

Gary Gensler, the new Chair of the SEC, recently said that updating disclosure rules on workforce metrics would be an “early focus” and a “top priority” of his tenure. Both Chairman Gensler and his predecessor, Chairman Jay Clayton, have affirmed the need for more information about companies’ human capital. 

The bill has the support of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the National Employment Law Project. Additionally, notable investment and asset management firms already support updating these disclosure requirements.

In 2019, 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 do not.

Sen. Warner, a former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has long stressed the importance of updating human capital disclosure requirements to reflect the priorities of modern companies. In a May 2020 letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Sen. Warner and Rep. Axne urged the SEC to require that human capital management information be 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. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance and Banking Committees, along with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) reintroduced legislation to promote workers’ long-term economic success and support U.S. economic recovery efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Investing in American Workers Act of 2021 prioritizes workers in U.S. recovery efforts by creating a tax credit to incentivize employers to invest in training tied to recognized postsecondary credentials for lower- and moderate-income workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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