OSHA under Acosta: facing potential budget cuts

The past few months have been slow moving in regards to the Trump administration’s approach to the Department of Labor. From President Trump’s first pick for Secretary of Labor withdrawing his nomination in mid-February to the backlash surrounding Trump’s proposed “skinny budget,” there is likely significant change on the horizon for this important government agency.

The skinny budget
The “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again” proposal from the Office of Management and Budget aims to increase defense spending, spending for immigration enforcement and toward the enforcement of violent crimes. According to the budget, these changes will put “America first by keeping more of America’s hard-earned tax dollars here at home.”

Under the President’s 2018 Budget, the Department of Labor will see a 21 percent decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This will bring the agency’s annual budget down to $9.6 from $12.2 billion. According to the budget, a majority of the major cuts will come from reducing funding for “ineffective, duplicative, and peripheral job training grants. As part of this, [the blueprint] eliminates the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), for a savings of $434 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.”

“The Department of Labor budget will decrease to $9.6 from $12.2 billion.”

It also would eliminate the Bureau of International Labor Affairs’ grant funding opportunities and encourage the department to work hard ensure all U.S. trade agreements benefit American workers. Other cuts include decreasing federal support for employee service formula grants and job training. This shifts the primary responsibility for funding these services to the states and local governments.

This budget also seeks to get rid of “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s unproven training grants, yielding savings of almost $11 million from the 2017 annualized CR level and focusing the agency on its central work of keeping workers safe on the job.”

The budget suggests expanding apprenticeship opportunities, which would emphasize a more evidence-based approach to preparing employees on the job. Authors of the budget also wrote that it hopes to improve Job Corps for disadvantaged youth by closing down centers it deems does an inadequate job at preparing or educating students for their jobs.

The new Secretary of Labor
Trump’s second pick for Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, the dean for Florida International University’s College of Law, will undergo his confirmation on March 22. Within this hearing, Bloomberg BNA reported Acosta is likely to face questioning regarding these specific budget cuts. An Acosta spokeswoman told the news outlet that Acosta was not briefed on the budget proposal prior to its release. Additionally, the budget authors wrote the DOL section without a confirmed political leader, unlike other portions of the budgetary blueprint.

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