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Senate GOP Blasted for Proposing OSHA Cuts as Covid-19 Crisis 'Makes Many Jobs Much More Dangerous'

The proposed cut to the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program was announced on the same day as senators floated nearly $700 billion in new military spending. 

Headquarters of the United States Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Ed Brown/WikiMedia Commons)

U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Ed Brown/WikiMedia Commons)

Senate Republicans came under fire Tuesday after proposing to slash millions of dollars in funding for an important Occupational Safety and Health Administration training grant program. 

Safety+Health reports the Senate Appropriations Committee—which also on Tuesday called for nearly $700 billion in new military expenditures—released a series of spending bills over the past week in which it seeks to cut $11.5 million from the proposed $581.8 million OSHA budget for fiscal year 2021. 

All of the new OSHA cuts would affect the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which according to the agency provides funding for nonprofit organizations offering training and education "for employers and workers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces."

The Trump administration has attempted to cut funding for the grant program every year, but Congress has not yet done so. Last month, OSHA awarded $11.2 million in Harwood grants (pdf) to some 90 nonprofit groups around the world. The grants ranged in size from $49,765 to $160,000. The Brewers Association, which represents small and independent U.S. craft breweries, received $79,725. 

"While clean beer lines are integral to maintaining the quality of craft beer, understanding how to safely clean these lines is imperative for staff health and safety," said Chuck Skypeck, the technical brewing projects manager for the Brewers Association. "We're honored to receive these funds and to put them to work in the industry as this will improve employee safety wherever draught beer is served."

The University of Texas, El Paso was awarded $160,000—its seventh consecutive win—to train hard-to-reach Latinx construction workers. 

"This training program has provided UTEP a unique opportunity to serve our students and community at an elevated level," said Adeeba Raheem, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the school. "This award has renewed our commitment to improving the safety and health of hard-to-reach construction workers employed mostly by small companies in El Paso and neighboring areas."

Worker safety advocates condemned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other members of the Appropriations Committee for seeking to cut funding for an important safety program during the middle of a pandemic that poses unique training challenges.

Heidi Shierholz, a former U.S. Department of Labor chief economist who is now director of policy at the nonprofit Ecomonic Policy Institute, blasted the senators for seeking spending cuts "during a public health crisis that makes many jobs much more dangerous." 

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