On July 9, the House overwhelmingly passed an important bill that is meant to improve federal workforce development programs. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) had been previously passed by the Senate after differences had been worked out between House and Senate versions. The president has said he will sign it.
WIOA replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which has been due for reauthorization by Congress since 2003. The Act authorizes spending for programs related to workforce development, employment services, adult education and vocational rehabilitation.
Included within this larger workforce development bill is the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act that, among other things, provides funding for integrated English literacy and civics education. While some of this funding might help immigrants prepare for citizenship, the real purpose of this title of the legislation is to help prepare adult English language learners for employment, so they may become economically self-sufficient.
Each year, approximately 12 percent of the funding authorized by the Act ($577.7 million in fiscal year 2015, rising to $678.6 million for fiscal year 2020) is set aside for integrated English literacy and civics education. Community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and partnerships between providers and employers are among the eligible entities eligible for receiving the English literacy and civics education funds.
While funding made available by this legislation is not specifically for citizenship preparation, it will create opportunities to fund some best practices in workforce development strategies that have been developed since the outdated Workforce Investment Act became law in 1998. For immigrants, these include career pathways programs that integrate English language and occupational training.