Obama to Speak About Job Training
By Scott Wilson
The nation's economy lost 539,000 jobs last month, and the nation's leader wants the unemployed to know what the government is doing to help them.
Facing rising Republican criticism as jobless claims continue to rise, President Obama will outline several modest steps this morning to make it easier for the growing ranks of jobless to retrain without losing unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate now stands at 8.9 percent.
In remarks at the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building, Obama will announce that he has instructed the Department of Education to notify colleges that they should adjust federal financial aid packages to reflect a student's current financial circumstances, rather than basing assistance on the previous year's income.
Colleges are allowed to make the adjustments already. But only about 1 percent do so each year for students receiving federal Pell Grants because the upward adjustment often prompts an education department audit. The letter from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis would encourage colleges to make the adjustments without fear of an audit.
Obama has also ordered the Department of Labor to advise state agencies to change rules that eliminate jobless benefits for unemployed people who enroll in school. State agencies often require anyone receiving unemployment benefits to be looking for work full-time in return for the assistance. Obama wants state agencies to grant more leeway to unemployed people who enroll in part-time retraining programs so they can keep their benefits while going to school.
Lastly, Obama has asked all state labor agencies to send letters outlining the array of aid, retraining programs, and other assistance available to anyone receiving unemployment benefits. The federal Departments of Labor and Education have created a Web site -- www.opportunity.gov -- to explain some of these measures.
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