On December 16th, SMACNA's Executive Director of Government and Political Affairs Stan Kolbe joined and addressed dignitaries from state and local government as well as several Texas-based labor organizations for the roll-out of HR 6733 in San Antonio, TX.
The Apprentice-Related Childcare Act (HR 6733), authored by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), would direct the US Department of Labor to establish a competitive grant program to award grants to ten geographically diverse states to administer childcare stipends to American workers enrolled in Department of Labor's (DOL) Registered Apprenticeships and Pre-Apprenticeship programs.
The ARCC Act would establish a two-year pilot program at the Department of Labor (DOL). Authorized at $200 million over Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025, the bill directs the DOL to establish a competitive grant program, awarding grants to ten geographically diverse states to administer childcare stipends to workers enrolled in Registered Apprenticeships and Pre-Apprenticeship programs.
Stipends are paid directly to childcare providers serving apprentices and must be at least $500 per month per dependent child. When administering childcare stipends, states must include groups historically underrepresented in apprenticeships, including women and people of color. At the conclusion of the pilot program, DOL must report to Congress on the impact of these stipends, including any effect on persistence and completion rates. The stipends are not subject to income tax or counted toward public benefit program eligibility.
Registered Apprenticeships nationwide have grown by more than 60 percent in the last decade. Over 90 percent of workers who complete Registered Apprenticeships gain employment. Despite the success of the apprenticeship system, apprentices still face financial barriers to completion—particularly those with dependent children. The average annual price of childcare nationwide has increased nearly 220 percent over the past three decades. Accordingly, studies show that apprentices cite difficulty finding childcare as a leading cause for leaving apprenticeship programs. This legislation will expand and increase access to apprenticeship programs at a time when it is needed most.
SMACNA and NECA have endorsed the legislation, as have several labor organizations, including SMART, North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC).
In his remarks during the ceremony on the bill's introduction, Kolbe emphasized the importance of registered apprenticeship programs to address the skilled workforce shortage and SMACNA's effort to recruit and enhance the workplace experience for new entrants from all backgrounds. To concur, Congressman Cuellar said, "I've seen the benefits of the Registered Apprenticeship system first-hand in South Texas, where our local unions sponsor multi-year programs in various trades." He continued, "The cost of childcare has tripled in the last three decades… we must do more to address these costs and support American workers."