Welfare Reform:

Implementing DOT's Access to Jobs Program in Its First Year

RCED-00-14: Published: Nov 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Access to Jobs and Reverse Commute program, which provides grants to improve transportation to employment for welfare recipients, focusing on the: (1) Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementation of the Job Access program, particularly its approach for selecting awards in fiscal year (FY) 1999; (2) FY 1999 grantees and their planned approaches for providing transportation services to low-income workers; and (3) changes DOT is making to the program in response to GAO's prior recommendations, including the establishment of specific objectives, performance criteria, and measurable goals for evaluating the program's success.

GAO noted that: (1) as required by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), DOT established and implemented a process for competitively selecting Job Access grantees; (2) DOT selected 179 grantees from 266 applications and awarded almost $71 million of the $75 million provided for the Job Access program for FY 1999; (3) DOT did not select grantees consistently, and the basis for those selections was not always clear; (4) reviewers did not uniformly apply the criteria for ranking and selecting the applications because applications were not standardized, making them difficult to review; (5) the guidance to DOT reviewers was not sufficiently specific, leading to varying interpretations of how to apply DOT's criteria for ranking and selecting the applications; (6) DOT officials said that this was a new program and that they designed the process to select applicants based on legislatively established criteria; (7) DOT agreed on the need to improve the process for ranking and selecting applications; (8) DOT plans to develop a standard application format and to revise the process for ranking and selecting applications for FY 2000; (9) about 67 percent of the grantees in the first year of the Job Access program were traditional transportation organizations, such as metropolitan transit agencies; (10) according to a DOT official, some nontraditional organizations were involved in designing the selected projects and are involved in their implementation; (11) DOT officials awarded selection points to applicants who demonstrated that, in designing a project, they included nontraditional organizations, such as human service agencies, employers, and metropolitan planning agencies; (12) most grantees plan to rely primarily on providing links to existing transit or providing other transportation assistance; (13) DOT concurred with the three recommendations that GAO made in May 1998; (14) DOT has implemented two of them and is still determining how to address the third; (15) DOT has coordinated with other federal agencies, as called for in TEA-21, by establishing and participating in interagency councils and working groups and by issuing guidelines jointly with other agencies; (16) DOT ranked the grant applicants for FY 1999, in part, on the basis of the level of coordination established with local agencies that serve various communities; (17) DOT is still determining how to evaluate the Job Access program; and (18) DOT has not yet developed a complete set of specific objectives, performance criteria, and measurable goals for evaluating the program.

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