Earlier this month, legislation known as the Skills Renewal Act (S. 3779 and H.R. 7032) was introduced in both chambers of Congress by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Of note, S. 3779 (the Senate version of the bill) was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who is also the author of S. 379, legislation supported by the PCC that would permit individuals to use 529 college savings plans to cover costs associated with obtaining a postsecondary credential. Like Sen. Klobuchar’s earlier bill, the Skills Renewal Act also aims to provide financial incentives to individuals who are seeking new training, skills, and professional recognition. The bill would create a $4,000 “skills training credit” that individuals could apply to cover the cost of professional training programs – including stackable credentials, certificate programs, apprenticeships, and traditional two- and four-year programs – that build skills expected to be in high demand by employers. The credit will be made available to anyone who lost their job as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and can be applied to the cost of training programs any time in 2020 or 2021. A fact sheet drafted by the bill sponsors and the current text of the legislation are attached to this email. The bill sponsors are working to gather additional bipartisan support for the bill and to have it included in the next round of coronavirus relief/stimulus legislation, which will likely be crafted over the next 1-2 months (the specific timing will be dependent, of course, on political dynamics, economic conditions, and the success or lack thereof in suppressing the pandemic nationwide).
When we learned about the introduction of this legislation, we reached out to staff for Sens. Klobuchar and Ben Sasse (D-NE) to let them know that the PCC supports the objectives of the legislation, but believes that it can be improved to more directly benefit certification programs and certificants. The helpful staffers in those Senate offices told us that they drafted the legislation to provide significant discretion to the U.S. Department of Labor to determine what types of certification programs would be eligible for the tax credit, but that they (in one of the staffer’s words) “would definitely want national certifications and certification assessments to be included.” They told us that they would be happy to consider any potential language changes as they continue to solicit feedback on the bill and negotiate with the Senate Finance Committee on it.
Consistent with this invitation, earlier this week we shared with Sens. Klobuchar and Sasse proposed amendments to the bill, along with accompanying analysis. Our amendments basically aim to ensure that the $4,000 tax credit would apply to expenses associated with:
- Obtaining a reputable certification/credential (not just those identified on the state list of training programs under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or those in computing/STEM fields precertified by the Department of Labor, as currently mandated by the bill)
- Taking an exam/assessment required to obtain a credential (in addition to the expenses associated with training)
Staffers for the two senators expressed appreciation that we shared our proposed amendments and accompanying analysis/explanation and will review them over the next few days. We will provide an update to PCC members regarding whether we receive a commitment from the bill sponsors to incorporate our amendments into the bill. If so, we will also provide you tools to register your support with lawmakers and to encourage your members/certificants/allies to do the same. Certainly, if the bill is amended as we have proposed, it could be a significant boon to certification programs nationwide.
Ceremony to Honor Reps. Spanberger and Wittman
As you will recall, earlier this year Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) introduced H.R. 5339, the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act. The bill, which would allow individuals to use 529 plans to cover costs associated with obtaining or maintaining certifications and other postsecondary credentials (including testing costs), was drafted by the PCC and is supported by numerous national organizations.