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    Subject Term: "Public assistance programs"

    6 publications with a total of 9 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Michael Courts
    Phone: (202) 512-8980

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsors provide complete and consistent lists of fees that participants must pay.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that sponsor provide complete and consistent lists of fees that exchange visitors on the Summer Work Travel program must pay, State acknowledged it collected such fee information in 2016. As of August 3, 2017, we are awaiting State's review and analysis of this information to ensure the price lists are consistent and comprehensive.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish a mechanism to establish a mechanism to ensure that information about these participant fees is made publicly available.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish a mechanism to ensure that information about Summer Work Travel participant fees is made publically available, State noted that it had published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require would require each sponsor to include in its recruiting material, and post on its main Web site (e.g., with a visible link to such a page on the sponsor?s homepage), examples of the typical monthly budgets of exchange visitors placed in various regions of the United States to illustrate wages (based on the required weekly minimum of 32-hours of work at a typical host placement) balanced against itemized fees and estimated costs. Until State finalizes this rule, they cannot enforce this requirement. As of July 27, 2017, this information was not available to the public on the six sponsor websites we checked.
    Recommendation: To enhance State's efforts to protect SWT participants from abuse and the SWT program from misuse, the Secretary of State should direct the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs to establish detailed criteria that will allow State to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to SWT participants.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation that the State Department (State) establish detailed criteria that will allow it to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of opportunities for cultural activities outside the workplace that sponsors provide to Summer Work Travel participants, State published a notice for proposed rulemaking on January 12, 2017. When finalized, this would require sponsors and their host entities to create cultural opportunities at least once per month. The proposed rule also notes that State will issue guidance outlining best practices for cross-cultural programming. As of July 27, 2017 this is not finalized.
    Director: Brown, Kay E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To encourage broader adoption and evaluation of promising approaches and address impediments to the use of the career pathways approach among TANF agencies, HHS should, in consultation with Congress, identify potential changes that would address the lack of incentives for states and localities to adopt promising approaches and then develop and submit a legislative proposal outlining those changes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2015, HHS noted that the agency's fiscal year 2016 budget includes a proposal to increase incentives for states to implement or strengthen subsidized employment programs and notes the Administration's willingness to work with Congress to improve the TANF program's effectiveness in accomplishing its goals. Additionally, HHS reported that it continues to provide technical assistance and disseminate research to help encourage TANF agencies to adopt or strengthen employment-focused approaches. While we commend these efforts, we continue to believe it is important for HHS, in consultation with Congress, to identify potential changes that would address the lack of incentives for states and localities to adopt promising approaches and develop and submit a legislative proposal outlining those changes. As of October 2017, we have not received any additional status updates on this recommendation from HHS.
    Director: Dave Wise
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrators of FTA and FEMA to establish specific guidelines to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of collaborative efforts--including their communications program and protocol--for Hurricane Sandy as well as future disasters.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: FTA and FEMA concurred with the recommendation and reported they took two actions in response. First, FTA and FEMA executed the communications protocol contemplated in the memorandum of agreement governing and collaboration between the two agencies in future disasters. This protocol established a joint tracking system to prevent duplicative assistance and included provisions for coordinating funding and for collaborating where insurance settlements and share grantees are involved. Second, in May 2017, FTA and FEMA published an after action report on coordination between the agencies in response to Hurricane Sandy. This report described the coordination that occurred during the Hurricane Sandy response, and discussed lessons learned to be applied to future events, such as the need for more frequent regularly scheduled meetings. We are evaluating FTA's and FEMA's responses.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrators of FTA and FEMA to establish specific guidelines to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of collaborative efforts--including their communications program and protocol--for Hurricane Sandy as well as future disasters.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: FTA and FEMA concurred with the recommendation and reported they took two actions in response. First, FTA and FEMA executed the communications protocol contemplated in the memorandum of agreement governing and collaboration between the two agencies in future disasters. This protocol established a joint tracking system to prevent duplicative assistance and included provisions for coordinating funding and for collaborating where insurance settlements and share grantees are involved. Second, in May 2017, FTA and FEMA published an after action report on coordination between the agencies in response to Hurricane Sandy. This report described the coordination that occurred during the Hurricane Sandy response, and discussed lessons learned to be applied to future events, such as the need for more frequent regularly scheduled meetings. We are evaluating FTA's and FEMA's responses.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can address atmospheric deposition of NOx and SO2 impairing the nation's waters, the EPA Administrator should determine whether EPA can obtain in a timely manner the data it needs to establish secondary NAAQS adequate to protect against the effects of acid rain and, if not, identify alternative strategies to do so.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: EPA issued the final "Integrated Review Plan for the Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Oxides of Nitrogen and Oxides of Sulfur and Particulate Mater" in January 2017. According to this plan, it serves as a public information document and as a management tool for EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment and Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards in conducting the review of the secondary national ambient air quality standards for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and oxides of sulfur (SOx). This plan describes the development of the Integrated Science Assessment (ISA). According to the plan, the ISA is a comprehensive review, synthesis and evaluation of the most policy-relevant science, including key science judgments. As of January 2017, EPA estimates that the first draft ISA will be available for public review in winter 2017. GAO may be able to use the ISA to determine if EPA has implemented the recommendation.
    Director: Currie, Christopher
    Phone: (404)679-3000

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the process for disaster declarations, the FEMA Administrator should develop and implement a methodology that provides a more comprehensive assessment of a jurisdiction's capability to respond to and recover from a disaster without federal assistance. This should include one or more measures of a jurisdiction's fiscal capacity, such as TTR, and consideration of the jurisdiction's response and recovery capabilities. If FEMA continues to use the PA per capita indicator to assist in identifying a jurisdiction's capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster, it should adjust the indicator to accurately reflect the annual changes in the U.S. economy since 1986, when the current indicator was first adopted for use. In addition, implementing the adjustment by raising the indicator in steps over several years would give jurisdictions more time to plan for and adjust to the change.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: On January 20, 2016, FEMA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit comments on an option FEMA is considering to establish a disaster deductible, which would require a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a recipient, generally the state or territorial government, before FEMA would provide assistance under the Public Assistance Program. According to FEMA, the agency received 150 responses during the 60-day public comment period, which ended on March 21, 2016, and used this input to develop a plan for further engagement on a more detailed proposal for public comment. The Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published on January 12, 2017, provided another opportunity for stakeholder input prior to any changes to the Public Assistance program. This proposal included an explanation of how deductible amounts might be calculated, identified specific credits that states could apply for, and detailed how the deductible would be applied post-declaration. Comments on the Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking must be submitted by April 12, 2017. Until FEMA implements a new methodology, FEMA will not have an accurate assessment of a jurisdiction's capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster without federal assistance and runs the risk of recommending that the President award Public Assistance to jurisdictions that have the capability to respond and recover on their own.
    Director: Yocom, Carolyn L
    Phone: (202)512-4931

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal funding efficiently and effectively responds to the countercyclical nature of the Medicaid program, Congress may wish to consider enacting an FMAP formula that is targeted for variable state Medicaid needs and provides automatic, timely, and temporary increased FMAP assistance in response to national economic downturns.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: On February 10, 2016, GAO testified on considerations related to the Medicaid funding formula. See Medicaid: Changes to Funding Formula Could Improve Allocation of Funds to States GAO-16-377T January 26, 2016. We also cited this report in our discussion on Medicaid funding during economic downturns in Medicaid: Key Policy and Data Considerations for Designing a Per Capita Cap on Federal Funding(GAO-16-726).