- A spending bill proposal released Wednesday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations would allocate $12.1 billion in discretionary funding to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for fiscal year 2020.
- The proposal would represent a year-over-year increase of $28 million, the committee said in a statement. However, the $12.1 billion total is less than that included in the spending bill passed in June by the U.S. House of Representatives, which would allocate $13.3 billion to DOL.
- Highlights of the Senate's proposal include $230 million in funding for DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) — a $1 million increase from fiscal year 2019 — and just over $274.2 million for the National Labor Relations Board, an amount that is unchanged from the previous fiscal year.
Congress faces a deadline to approve a spending bill and avoid a government shutdown at the end of September. The House Committee on Appropriations released a continuing resolution Wednesday that would fund the government through Nov. 21. But both chambers would need to approve the resolution for it to take effect.
The Senate's proposal notably does not incorporate the cuts to DOL spending recommended by the White House in its fiscal year 2020 budget document. The Trump administration proposed a budget of $10.9 billion for DOL, an amount it calculated to be a 9.7% decrease from the department's enacted spending level in the 2019 fiscal year.
Overall, the Senate's proposed increases for WHD would effectively maintain the status quo and wouldn't drastically impact enforcement activities, Al Robinson, shareholder at Ogletree Deakins and former acting administrator of the division, told HR Dive in an interview. "I think they're back to trying to basically maintain what's currently being offered with existing resources," he said.
The new funds could go to any number of WHD initiatives, Robinson explained, but also would likely be put toward things like salary adjustments and increases for staff.
In a report accompanying the Senate document, the committee said it "looks forward to receiving" a report on DOL's Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program. DOL first launched a pilot of the program, which encourages employers to audit their pay practices and self-report violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, in March 2018. It later extended that pilot by six months in October 2018.
The same report called attention to the potential impact of automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace following a proposed increase in funding for DOL's Employment and Training Administration. "The Committee encourages [DOL] to support demonstration projects on workforce development activities that will assist workers in sectors, particularly transportation, most at risk of job dislocation due to automation and artificial intelligence," it wrote.