Department of Labor:

Senior Community Service Employment Program Delivery Could Be Improved Through Legislative and Administrative Actions

HEHS-96-4: Published: Nov 2, 1995. Publicly Released: Nov 2, 1995.

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GAO examined the Department of Labor's (DOL) Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), focusing on: (1) DOL process for awarding SCSEP grants; (2) the extent to which DOL equitably distributes SCSEP funds; and (3) SCSEP administrative costs.

GAO found that: (1) in order to maintain 1978 activity levels, the Older Americans Act (OAA) requires DOL to award SCSEP grants to national sponsors and those with proven track records; (2) of the $410 million in SCSEP appropriations for program year 1994, $234.5 million was distributed under the 1978 activity level provision; (3) DOL's use of the 1978 allocation pattern severely limited its ability to achieve equitable distribution among states; (4) appropriations statutes have overriden the title V funding provision to require that no more than 22 percent of SCSEP appropriations be allocated to state governments; and (5) in program year 1994, national sponsors' administrative costs exceeded the 15-percent limit due to administrative expenses being charged to another cost category.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The 106th Congress passed the Older Americans Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-501), which updated the hold harmless provision. However, it maintained levels of activity for fiscal year 2000 instead of correcting historical inaccuracies.

    Matter: If Congress wishes to ensure equitable distribution of SCSEP funds among states, it should consider amending or eliminating the title's hold harmless provision. Such an amendment would authorize Labor to hold harmless only the 1978 nationwide level of national sponsor positions. If the hold harmless provision were eliminated: (1) the national sponsors could experience reduced funding levels; and (2) Labor could distribute the funds on the basis of the most current data available.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Older Americans Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-501) contains provisions for increasing the distribution of funds to states if funding is in excess of what is necessary to maintain fiscal year 2000 levels of activity. The first $35 million excess would be divided so that 75 percent went to states and 25 percent to national organizations. Amounts above $35 million would be split 50/50.

    Matter: If Congress wishes to better meet the OAA title V goal of equitably distributing SCSEP funds within states, it should consider increasing the portion of SCSEP grant funds allocated to state governments from the current 22 percent. One way to do that would be to forgo appropriations act language limiting the state governments to 22 percent of the annual appropriation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOL indicated that it would subject these grant actions to its normal review process. However, continuation of grants through DOL is uncertain, because the program may shift to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DOL should no longer permit title V grants to be exempted from DOL's normal review process and subject these grants to the same review as other noncompetitive grants.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Older Americans Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-501) defines administrative costs. DOL issued draft regulations that redefine administrative costs, consistent with the Amendments of 2000.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DOL should enforce the statutory limit on administrative expenses and be prepared to reduce the funds available for administration of any grantee exceeding the legal limit by improperly categorizing costs or incurring improper indirect costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOL disagrees with GAO's view of categorization of costs and supports the 1995 regulation categorization as the program standard.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DOL should revise the 1995 regulations to adopt the definition of administrative costs set out in the 1976 regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Older Americans Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-501) did not include specific language to sanction the noncooperation of national sponsors. DOL continues to maintain that this is difficult to do without an increase in funds.

    Recommendation: To better meet the OAA title V goal of equitably distributing SCSEP funds within states, the Secretary of DOL should adjust, as necessary, sponsors' funding levels to reward sponsors that are willing to establish positions in underserved counties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Older Americans Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-501) encouraged cooperation of state and national sponsors, as well as a state plan to be developed by Governors to discuss how services will be provided between states and national sponsors. Plans from all the states were submitted to DOL in 2001.

    Recommendation: To better meet the OAA title V goal of equitably distributing SCSEP funds within states, the Secretary of DOL should require greater cooperation among national sponsors and states in equitable distribution matters.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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