Welfare to Work:

JOBS Participation Rate Data Unreliable for Assessing States' Performance

HRD-93-73: Published: May 5, 1993. Publicly Released: May 5, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed issues related to the participation rate requirements of the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training Program.

GAO noted that: (1) none of the four states reviewed met all the participation rate reporting requirements; (2) complex and burdensome reporting requirements contributed to states reporting noncomparable and inaccurate participation data; (3) none of the four states' automated systems were programmed to collect or process all the required participation rate data; (4) several state and local officials cited complex JOBS regulations or the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) instructions as the reason they misapplied prescribed methodologies or overlooked exemptions to which states are entitled; and (5) HHS has been aware of problems in other states since 1990, but it has taken little action to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the data states report.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer applicable. HHS has taken no action to date to address this recommendation and has recently obtained approval from the Office of Management and Budget to continue collecting such data. Its officials believe that any change in calculating participation rates would require a legislative change and plan no immediate action until welfare reform legislation is decided. Both the House and Senate passed welfare reform bills in the 104th Congress that include provisions that would eliminate the JOBS program. If such legislation is enacted, the JOBS program would be abolished, making these particular participation rates and GAO's recommendation obsolete.

    Recommendation: Because states are experiencing difficulties in compiling participation rate data and reporting inaccurate data to HHS, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should review HHS participation rate reporting requirements toward the goals of making them less complex and burdensome while preserving the concept of meaningful participation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the fourth quarter of FY 1993, HHS formalized a bimonthly procedure whereby regional offices are asked to verify the accuracy of data reported to HHS headquarters by states, including participation rate data. Under this procedure, regional offices are asked to resolve apparent data discrepancies in information sent them (and to regions) by states. Data discrepancies are identified at the headquarters level if data remitted by states do not agree with the same or similar data from other sources and/or reports. According to an HHS official, this procedure has helped to improve the states' data collection practices by timely identifying when data discrepancies occur, then promptly resolving them. The initiative was undertaken in response to GAO's recommendation for increased oversight of states' participation rate data.

    Recommendation: Because participation rate data are used to adjust the rate at which the federal government shares in the costs of a state's JOBS program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should increase HHS oversight of states' development of participation rate data to provide sufficient assurance that the processes states use to compile the data are reasonable and produce a fair measure of states' performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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