The Trump administration's preliminary budget proposal could jeopardize a federal grant program that long provided safety training to workers in often-dangerous occupations.
The White House proposal included steep cuts for most federal agencies, and the Labor Department was no exception. The department faces a 21 percent funding cut and the elimination of numerous programs.
Bloomberg reports that one item on the chopping block is an $11 million training grant program administered by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
The initiative, known as the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, provides funding to nonprofit groups to develop training materials for a wide variety of safety topics — which often impact small employers, niche markets or other difficult-to-reach workers.
Despite their lengthy reach and modest price tag, the Harwood grants previously came under fire from lawmakers. A budget proposal from House Republicans in late 2015, Safety+Health magazine reported, said that the program was "inefficient and ineffective" compared to OSHA's training centers.
The White House earlier this month called the Harwood program "unproven" and suggested that eliminating it would allow OSHA to focus "on its central work of keeping workers safe on the job."
“We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said of the overall proposal. “That is about as compassionate as you can get.”
Proponents of the Harwood grants, however, noted that they helped educate more than 2 million workers in the program's nearly four-decade existence — and said that vulnerable workers could fall through the cracks under OSHA’s Training Institute and Education Centers alone.
“We would argue the opposite — increase the funding for this program,” Kevin Cannon of the Associated General Contractors of America, a Harwood recipient, told S+H in 2015.
Other Labor Department programs that face cuts under the preliminary White House budget, according to The Washington Post, include job training programs for low-income seniors, disabled workers and disadvantaged youth.
Federal training grants, meanwhile, would be shifted to state and local governments and businesses, and a program designed to help unemployed workers find jobs more quickly would be expanded under the budget plan.