March 16, 2017

The $2.5 billion cut to the U.S. Department of Labor outlined in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint Thursday means the DOL could be a very different agency in the near future. While exactly what will get eliminated as part of the 21 percent reduction is unclear, attorneys say the agency's rulemaking and enforcement efforts will likely take a hit.

The blueprint proposes to nix funding for certain independent agencies, among them the Legal Services Corp., a nonprofit that helps those of low means with civil litigation. Coupled with the reduction of the DOL’s budget, the elimination of the LSC means less action will be taken to enforce wage laws, attorneys said.

“Among the things they do is they service low-wage workers who have had their state or federal rights violated by their employer,” said Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC’s Michael Hancock, a former assistant administrator in the Wage and Hour Division. “This is a place where the private bar can’t really fully fill that gap … there’s just not enough lawyers in the private bar who can do these basically pro bono.”

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said the office will release a complete budget in May, though even that proposal will likely be far different than the one that ultimately passes, attorneys say.

Thursday’s budget makes significant cuts to almost every major federal agency but the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, meaning it could face significant opposition on Capitol Hill. But even if the budget Congress adopts does not reduce funding for the DOL at quite the level proposed Thursday, the agency will likely take a hit.

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