Welfare Reform:

Transportation's Role in Moving From Welfare to Work

RCED-98-161: Published: May 29, 1998. Publicly Released: May 29, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) whether current studies and research demonstrate the importance of transportation services in implementing welfare reform; (2) the preliminary results of the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) current welfare-to-work programs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Bridges to Work program; and (3) how an Access to Jobs program would support welfare reform.

GAO noted that: (1) transportation and welfare studies show that without adequate transportation, welfare recipients face significant barriers in trying to move from welfare to work; (2) existing public transportation systems cannot always bridge the gap between where the poor live and where jobs are located; (3) the majority of entry-level jobs that the welfare recipients and the poor would be likely to fill are located in suburbs that have limited or no accessibility through existing public transportation systems; (4) FTA has funded welfare-to-work demonstration projects, planning grants, and regional seminars, while HUD's Bridges to Work research program is in the early stages of placing inner-city participants in suburban jobs; (5) although these programs began recently and have limited funding, they have identified programmatic and demographic factors that state and local officials should consider when they select the best transportation strategies for their welfare-to-work programs; (6) these factors include: (a) collaboration among transportation providers and employment and human services organizations; (b) analyses of local labor markets to help design transportation strategies that link employees to specific jobs; and (c) flexible transportation strategies that may not always rely on existing mass transit systems; (7) if authorized, an Access to Jobs program would bring additional resources and attention to the transportation element of welfare reform; (8) however, limited information about the program's objectives or expected outcomes makes it difficult to evaluate how the program would improve mobility for low-income workers or support national welfare-to-work goals; (9) the new program may require FTA and local transit agencies to undergo a cultural change whereby they are willing to accept nontraditional approaches for addressing welfare-to-work barriers; (10) the agency must ensure that the millions of dollars it contributes to welfare reform support rather than duplicate the transportation funds provided through other federal and state agencies; and (11) while FTA has begun to consider some of these important issues, addressing all of them before the program is established would help ensure that the transportation funds provided for an Access to Jobs program would be used efficiently and effectively in support of national welfare goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century authorized funding for a Job Access and Reverse Commute Program beginning in fiscal year 1999. DOT selected one program goal to include in its performance plan. DOT developed and is implementing a more extensive evaluation approach for the program. DOT is collecting evaluation data on active Job Access projects and plans to use it to report to Congress.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes an Access to Jobs program, the Secretary of Transportation should establish specific objectives, performance criteria, and measurable goals for the program when the Department prepares its Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century authorized funding a Job Access and Reverse Commute program beginning in FY1999. DOT officials acknowledge the importance of ensuring that grant recipients coordinate transportation strategies with local job placement and other social service agencies. DOT's solicitation for grant applications for the Job Access and Reverse Commute program, published November 6th in the Federal Register, indicates that grant applicants must coordinate their transportation strategies with local job placement and other social service agencies. Specifically it states that the transportation projects must be part of a regional plan developed by a group of organizations including local transit agencies, the agencies administering HHS' Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and DOL's Welfare-to-Work grants, welfare recipients and low-income people.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes an Access to Jobs program, the Secretary of Transportation should require that grant recipients coordinate transportation strategies with local job placement and other social service agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century authorized funding for a Job Access and Reverse Commute program. DOT officials acknowledge the importance of coordinating their program with other federal agencies, such as the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, to ensure that program funds complement and do not duplicate other welfare-to-work funds. DOT initiated a policy council including executive-level representatives from HHS, DOL, HUD, OMB and the White House to help ensure that its Access to Jobs program works together with other federal welfare programs. It also issued joint guidance with HHS and DOL detailing how to coordinate the use of the agencies' resources. Finally, DOT plans to continue its coordination with other agencies by issuing joint coordination information with the announcement for next year's Job Access grant applications.

    Recommendation: If Congress authorizes an Access to Jobs program, the Secretary of Transportation should work with other federal agencies, such as the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, to coordinate welfare-to-work activities and to ensure that program funds complement and do not duplicate other welfare-to-work funds available for transportation services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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