Workforce Investment Act:

Better Guidance and Revised Funding Formula Would Enhance Dislocated Worker Program

GAO-02-274: Published: Feb 11, 2002. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 2002.

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Under the Workforce Investment Act, local workforce areas are likely to offer dislocated workers services that are tailored to local needs and that emphasize a quick return to employment. Nine of the local workforce areas that GAO visited emphasized a quick return to work and enrolled fewer dislocated workers into training than were enrolled under the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). Five local areas enrolled into training an equal or greater number of dislocated workers than were enrolled under JTPA. States used the act's flexibility to decide how much of their set-aside funds to spend on rapid response for dislocated workers and how much to spend on other statewide activities. Most of the 50 states that responded to a GAO survey on rapid response activities said that their state unit provided services when layoffs and plant closings involved 50 or more workers and that the state generally relied on local workforce area officials to provide rapid response services for layoffs affecting fewer workers. Workforce officials in several states expressed concern that the act's dislocated worker funding formula causes dramatic fluctuations in funding that are unrelated to the number of dislocated workers in the state.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2003, GAO delivered a report to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions discussing potential effects of alternative funding formulas, including the dislocated worker funding formula. Committee staff have subsequently requested Labor to analyze factors identified in the report and assess potential impact.

    Matter: Congress should consider modifying the existing dislocated worker funding formula to minimize funding volatility and to ensure that dislocated worker funds are better distributed to states in relation to their dislocated worker population. Congress may wish to direct Labor to undertake a study of the dislocated worker funding formula to identify factors that would enable better distribution of program funds to states in relation to their dislocated worker population.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor redesigned its web site in 2004 to make it more easily accessible for workforce professionals to obtain information on dislocated workers and WIA programs. Labor also supports another web site, www.workforceusa.net for sharing best practices on WIA programs. Finally, Labor held a series of regional forums where state best practices were highlighted.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should identify strategies for disseminating this information in a timely manner. In particular, Labor should disseminate timely information on best practices being developed by local areas to meet the needs of their dislocated workers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor recognizes the need for improvement in Rapid Response, and continues to support conferences and workshops on this topic. Labor conducted a series of workshops and forums in 2004 to address dislocated worker issues. In particular, one forum entitled, "An Integrated Service Delivery Response to Dislocated Workers" was presented to state and local officials in each Labor region. Workshops presented at this forum were intended to identify Labor's policy direction regarding an integrated service strategy for dislocated workers, assist state and local officials in overcoming obstacles, identify and share state promising practices, and review and discuss policies and processes to determine where changes may be appropriate. A Rapid Response Guide is currently undergoing revisions for publication.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should identify strategies for disseminating this information in a timely manner. In particular, Labor should disseminate guidance that is more responsive to the concerns of workforce officials responsible for implementing the act's requirements, including when to register individuals into the dislocated worker program and how to provide additional assistance to local areas using rapid response funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the past year, Labor identified all states that failed at least one performance measure for the dislocated worker program, and used WIA technical assistance funds to contract for intensive technical assistance services as part of its Performance Enhancement Project. In addition, Labor continues to participate in employment and training conferences providing workshops and discussions to address concerns on a wide range of topics and issues.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should identify strategies for disseminating this information in a timely manner. In particular, Labor should proactively identify areas that emerge as requiring additional guidance to help state and local areas implement the dislocated worker program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has issued guidance in the form of Training and Employment Guidance Letter 23-02, which advises states of the greater flexibility under WIA for providing employment and training services. In addition, Labor has encouraged states to request waivers to provide more flexibility in conducting WIA programs, including more flexibility in transferring funds between the adult and dislocated worker programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should provide local workforce areas with additional guidance on implementation issues and information on best practices to facilitate implementation of the dislocated worker program under WIA and to assist local workforce officials in using the greater flexibility afforded by the act to design programs and services. Such guidance would help the local areas further define their policies and procedures to meet the needs of their dislocated workers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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