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Highlights

The Department of Labor (Labor) awards national emergency grants to states and local areas to provide assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of major economic dislocations or disasters. Most grants awarded are regular grants to assist workers affected by plant closings or mass layoffs. Questions have been raised about whether grant funds are getting to states and local areas quickly enough. GAO was asked to assess the effectiveness of the process for awarding national emergency grants, whether Labor is planning changes that will improve the grant award process, and what is known about how grant funds are used.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Labor 1. In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and to accurately assess how long it takes to make grant awards and incremental payments, the Secretary of Labor should set timeliness goals for the full process--from the receipt of the application until the award letter is sent--for initial grant awards and incremental payments.
Closed - Implemented
In guidance issued in the Federal Register on April 27, 2004, the Department of Labor established a goal to make approval decisions within 30 business days on applications for both initial grants and incremental payments of national emergency grants (NEGs). In addition, in July 2006, Labor implemented a change to its electronic application system that allows it to capture the date the grant award letter is issued.
Department of Labor 2. In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and to accurately assess how long it takes to make grant awards and incremental payments, the Secretary of Labor should continuously track the number of days that have passed, beginning when applications are first submitted and until the award letter is sent, including days grantees spend revising their applications.
Closed - Implemented
Labor is manually tracking the number of days from receipt of a complete application to the date an award letter is sent to the grantees, including days grantees spend revising their applications. This tracking system is in place for applications for both initial grants and incremental payments.
Department of Labor 3. In addition, to ensure that information relating to national emergency grants is accurate and complete, the Secretary of Labor should develop specific reporting guidance on progress reports to ensure that grantees define data elements consistently.
Closed - Implemented
Labor implemented its electronic system for progress reports (ETA form 9104) on July 3, 2005. The electronic system provided definitions for the report's data elements, which will help to ensure that states submit data consistently.
Department of Labor 4. In addition, to ensure that information relating to national emergency grants is accurate and complete, the Secretary of Labor should ensure that all states submit Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD) data on participants exiting from services provided with national emergency grants (for grantees that are not states, ensure that they submit WIASRD data on national emergency grants to states for submission to Labor).
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Labor issued Training and Employment Guidance Letter 14-03, Change 1 on August 11, 2004, which clearly stated that states' WIASRD submissions should include all individuals served by National Emergency Grants who have exited the program. This action will help to ensure the completeness of data on National Emergency Grant exiters in the WIASRD.

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