Congress is getting ready to leave town, it’s schedule so jammed with major bills—Veterans Health Care, Immigration Crisis, Highway Funding—that once again WOTC will be left behind.
The Senate passed the Highway Bill after voting on four amendments—this was the last realistic time for an extenders amendment, but it was not to be.
The two leaders—Senator Reid and Senator McConnell—had their attention elsewhere. The Highway bill that passed the Senate forced a confrontation with the House which had already passed a different bill. Leaders are still trying to resolve differences between the bills with Speaker Boehner.
Leaders are still scrambling over what to do about the border crisis in the final hours before adjournment. We’re a little more than 90 days before election, so standing in the way of congressmen racing home to campaign invites getting trampled.
Nevertheless our campaign this month made important progress. For the first time since Senator Olympia Snowe retired, WOTC has a committed Republican champion in the Senate—Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. If Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas can win his coming primary, we can count on a “gang of two,” and there’s a good prospect Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri can make it a “gang of three.” Coalition members will meet with Senator Blunt at home during the recess.
The moment Congress returns on September 8th, we’ll have to be ready to push enacting the tax extenders on the Continuing Resolution to fund the government that must be passed before October 1st. Winning support of Republicans in both Senate and House will continue to be key to success, so our 50-state lobbying plan remains in effect.
The hiatus is devastating to WOTC workers and employers alike—our estimate, based on DOL data from the last hiatus in 2012—is that 300,000 jobs will be lost to veterans, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, low-income seniors, ex-felons, and welfare and food stamp recipients including many displaced workers and long-term unemployed.
One positive development is that, according to BLS, hiring of summer youth is up sharply—this hiring is covered by WOTC and private employers can book a 40 percent tax credit on wages up to $3,000.
BLS also issued a report on the Leisure and Hospitality industry (mainly restaurants and hotels) showing total employment of 15 million on June 30, and total losses of 4.6 million and hires of 5 million during the previous year. This 33 percent annual turnover rate has been roughly the same since we first pointed it out in 2009. In a good year, Leisure and Hospitality workers account for approximately 60 percent of WOTC hires, or roughly 700,000—and here’s the point—700,000 WOTC hires is only 14 percent of the 5 million total hires made by Leisure and Hospitality firms in the past year. Is 14 percent WOTC the best employers can do?
We’ve more than once shown the return on WOTC to the firm can be quantified—as a percent increase in retained earnings, as a percent increase in liquidity, as a percent reduction in labor cost and concomitant increase in productivity—surely the financial incentive is there. Additionally, there are ten million adults age 18-59 receiving food stamps—a sizeable pool of eligible hires.
Are CEO’s paying attention? Maybe hiring managers need to be reminded about “stocking the pool” of job applicants with more WOTC-eligible workers and checking their list when job openings arise.
WOTC isn’t dead—just hibernating. The economy is growing again—at an annual rate of 4% last quarter—now is the time for banking tax credits, and in addition, supporting our campaign for permanent WOTC.
PAUL E. SUPLIZIO
President, WOTC Coalition