Trade Adjustment Assistance: Labor Should Take Action to Ensure Performance Data Are Complete, Accurate and Accessible

GAO-06-496 Published: Apr 25, 2006. Publicly Released: May 25, 2006.
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Highlights

In the current tight budgetary environment, program performance is likely to be an increasingly significant factor used to help policymakers assess programs and determine funding levels. Given concerns over the quality of performance data for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and the importance of having meaningful information to assess program performance, we examined (1) whether the TAA performance data provide a credible picture of the program's performance, (2) what TAA performance data the Department of Labor (Labor) makes available to the public and states and the usefulness of the data for managing the program, and (3) what Labor is doing to address issues with the quality of TAA data submitted by states.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Labor To help ensure that TAA participant data reported by states are consistent, complete, and accurate, Labor should clarify through guidance and other communications with states that all participants who exit the program should be included in the Trade Act Participant Report.
Closed - Implemented
Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) revised the Trade Act Participant Report (TAPR) General Reporting Instructions and Specifications that are used by states for reporting TAA participant data. The record layout specifications include a paragraph that states that a TAPR file should be opened when an individual begins receiving any TAA benefit or service, and it clarifies the definition of benefit or service. The new specifications make it clear that participants who receive a waiver, Trade Adjustment Assistance payments, and other allowances should be included in the TAPR.
Department of Labor To help ensure that TAA participant data reported by states are consistent, complete, and accurate, Labor should clarify through guidance and other communications with the documentation needed to verify the training completion date.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to DOL, Employment and Training Administration (ETA) issued formal guidance on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reporting including instructions on the exit date in Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 6-09, and ETA conducted training on the reporting instructions for all 50 states, including on how to report the exit date. However, GAO reviewed TEGL 6-09, which includes the 2009 update to the handbook for reporting TAA data, and did not find anything regarding the documentation needed to verify the training completion date.
Department of Labor To help ensure that TAA participant data reported by states are consistent, complete, and accurate, Labor should clarify through guidance and other communications with ensure that the core monitoring guide currently under development for regional office site visits includes guidance for assessing whether states' data collection processes for performance reporting capture all participants.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOL reported that with the reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program under 2009 amendments, this guide, which was in final clearance, was withdrawn for revision to reflect the expanded program. The Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance expects to work on the revision of the monitoring guide during CY2011 to reflect new regulatory provisions currently under development.
Department of Labor To help ensure that TAA participant data reported by states are consistent, complete, and accurate, Labor should provide states with opportunities to share lessons learned with other states on issues that may affect data quality.
Closed - Implemented
According to DOL, during CY 2009, OTAA focused significant attention on data quality to prepare states for the changes required under the new reporting system required under the 2009 Amendments. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) data quality requirements were the focus of two national performance conferences during CY 2009, and also major topics of discussion at six regional TAA training sessions to implement new program requirements and discuss data systems and lessons learned on issues that affect data quality. Extensive technical assistance was also provided to states through periodic or regularly scheduled conference and one-on-one calls.
Department of Labor To make TAA performance information more useful for program management, Labor should provide this information by the type of services received by TAA participants.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOL reported that OTAA implemented a searchable data base on its website. However, GAO reviewed the website and found that it shows only numbers of participants receiving the different services and does not show performance data by type of services received. GAO also searched DOL's website for other Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) performance data and did not find any TAA performance data by type of service received.

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