Problem Solvers Caucus Endorses JOBS Act to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Students

October 24, 2019 by Dan McCue
The campus of Georgetown University. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus on Thursday threw its support behind a proposal to expand Pell Grant eligibility for short-term training programs that will allow more Americans to gain industry-recognized credentials.

The House bill, H.R. 3497, also called the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act, was introduced by Reps. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, and Cedric Richmond, D-La. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Tim Kaine, D-Va.

Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., John Katko, R-N.Y., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Andy Levin, D-Mich., and Steven Horsford, D-Nev., co-led the endorsement effort within the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Explaining her support for the bill, Rep. Spanberger said calls for expanding Pell Grant eligibility were a constant refrain during a recent education tour that took her, among other places, to J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in her district.

While there, she spoke at length with instructors and administrators about the need to address the problem.

“In Central Virginia, we have strong workforce training programs for occupations ranging from commercial truck drivers to database specialists. But many students in our region’s short-term training programs are ineligible to apply for Pell Grants, which could help them afford the training they need to advance toward their long-term career goals,” she said.

“That’s why I’m proud to co-lead the endorsement of the JOBS Act in the Problem Solvers Caucus—and I look forward to fighting for the financial security of the next generation of Central Virginia workers and their families,” she added.

Rep. John Katko saw a similar need first-hand in his district in Central New York.

“High-skill job opportunities in fields such as nursing and information technology continue to expand throughout [the region] and nationwide,” he said. “Short-term training programs offered through community colleges are essential in providing the necessary skills workers need to succeed at these in-demand careers.”

In announcing its support for the legislation, the caucus, which is co-chaired by Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said the bill would provide students from all walks of life with access to the training and skills they need to succeed in the twenty-first century economy.

“We need to be creating good-paying jobs, and spurring growth and innovation in North Jersey and around the country,” Rep. Gottheimer said. “This legislation will ensure that hard-working Americans, especially in my state, are able to access the vocational and short-term training programs they need. With the Problem Solvers’ endorsement of the JOBS Act, we’re continuing to break through the gridlock to back bipartisan legislation that moves our nation forward.”

“Nationwide, there are currently more job openings than there are Americans who are looking for work,” said Rep. Reed. “With employers clamoring for more qualified workers, we should be promoting the education required to fill these good paying jobs.”

A recent NFIB survey found that 54% of small business owners have reported few or no qualified applicants for their openings.

While there are currently several resources to help individuals achieve traditional college degrees, the need for aid to attend shorter-term training programs has gone largely unfulfilled.

As a result, those wishing to pursue a post-secondary education pathway other than a traditional degree are often overlooked and industries across the country are facing growing skills gaps.

The JOBS Act will fix this problem by extending Pell Grant eligibility to qualified programs that are between 150 and 600 clock hours and at least eight weeks in length. This means more qualified candidates and better fits for jobs available in areas where employers have difficulty filling open positions.

The caucus, which is comprised of 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans, is urging that a floor vote be held on the bill in the near future.

H.R. 3497 is supported by AGC, ABC, National Association of Home Builders, ACTE, and the National Skills Coalition.

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