President proposes changes at Health and Labor departments

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President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump

Renaming the Department of Health and Human Services and combining the departments of Labor and Education are two of the many proposals in a government reform plan released Thursday by President Donald Trump.

Much of the plan would require approval from Congress, so the future of the proposals is uncertain.

“We really appreciate all of the input we got. We had hundreds of thousands of comments from the public on this over the course of the last year,” Mick Mulvaney, director of White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a YouTube video in which he discussed the document. Trump had asked the OMB to devise the plan after taking office.

Under the plan, titled “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations,” HHS would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

Some nutrition assistance programs currently under the U.S. Department of Agriculture — the Child and Adult Care Food Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and Women, Infants, and Children and its Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs — would move to the Health and Public Welfare Department. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program for low-income individuals who are aged at least 60 years, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and some other programs would remain under the USDA.

“With the move of these non-commodity programs, the welfare portfolio at HHS increases significantly,” according to the plan. “The proposal renames HHS the Department of Health and Public Welfare to more accurately reflect the mission of the agency and raise the profile of non-health related programs within the agency.”

Also, a new Council on Public Assistance, including all agencies that administer public benefits, would be given the statutory authority to set cross-program policies, including uniform work requirements for benefits.

The plan also calls for moving USDA housing programs to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Merging Labor and Education

The president's plan also calls for merging the departments of Labor and Education into one cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce, “charged with meeting the needs of American students and workers from education and skill development to workplace protection to retirement security.”

“This is what a lot of other countries do because they see both job training and educational training as preparing folks for the workforce. ...We get a lot of efficiencies, we get a lot of cost savings, but more importantly, we get better results,” Mulvaney said.

“Worker protection” areas such as the Wage and Hour Division, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Civil Rights, the Office of Workers' Compensation and other “enforcement” operations would be shifted to a new “sub-agency.”

“In the new DEW, all of these agencies would report to one senior official to enhance the efficiency and coordination of enforcement and compliance assistance efforts,” the report states.

The plan also proposes “significant government-wide workforce development program consolidations, streamlining separate programs in order to increase efficiencies and better serve American workers.”

“The federal government is long overdue for a serious overhaul,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said in a statement.

The committee's ranking member, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), however, described the plan as “a hastily concocted proposal that uses the false promise of ‘streamlining' to cut investments in our future. ...The Department of Labor is no more equipped to oversee elementary education policy than the Department of Education is prepared to enforce standards for coal mine safety. The logic behind this proposal is painfully thin.”

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