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Highlights

Federally funded employment and training programs play an important role in helping job seekers obtain employment. The Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (HHS) largely administer these programs. GAO's objectives were to determine: (1) whether the number of federal employment and training programs and funding for them have changed since our 2003 report, (2) what kinds of outcome measures the programs use and what is known about program effectiveness, (3) the extent to which the programs provide similar services to similar populations, (4) the extent to which duplication may exist among selected large programs, and (5) what options exist for increasing efficiencies among these programs. To address these objectives, GAO searched federal program lists, surveyed federal agency officials, reviewed relevant reports and studies, and interviewed officials in selected states.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Labor 1. To facilitate further progress by states and localities in increasing administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs, the Secretaries of Labor and HHS should work together to develop and disseminate information that could inform such efforts. This should include information about: (1) state initiatives to consolidate program administrative structures; and (2) state and local efforts to colocate new partners, such as TANF, at one-stop centers. Information on these topics could address challenges faced, strategies employed, results achieved, and remaining issues. As a part of this effort, Labor and HHS should examine the incentives for states and localities to undertake such initiatives and, as warranted, identify options for increasing such incentives.
Closed - Implemented
The Departments of Labor (Labor) and HHS worked together to help increase administrative efficiencies. Labor reported that, in March 2012, the department and HHS hosted the first Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)/Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Coordination Study Technical Work Group meeting. According to Labor, this study focused on identifying and documenting potentially promising practices in coordinating TANF/WIA services at the state and local levels. The study was completed in January 2015. Labor issued guidance to states on June 8, 2012, which included recommendations on streamlining administrative processes - such as intake, application, case management, data sharing, and integrated program reporting - to maximize program efficiency. According to Labor, the guidance encouraged states and local areas to increase interagency coordination and alignment, particularly with HHS programs like TANF. On June 14, 2012, Labor announced the award of 26 Workforce Innovation Fund grants, totaling nearly $147 million, to states, local workforce investment boards, and Indian and Native American communities. And, on June 18, 2014, Labor announced the availability of $53 million for the second round of grants. One of Labor's goals for this Fund is to incentivize greater efficiency by providing funds that support innovation in the delivery of quality services. According to Labor, several of these grants focus specifically on integrating services at the regional level, colocating and bundling complementary services, and implementing cross-program cooperation. Labor also reported that the department, HHS, and the Department of Education continued their efforts to develop and disseminate information to states and localities through technical assistance to cross-agency teams to support the improvement of employment, training, and education outcomes for low-skilled adults. Labor officials said that Labor, HHS, and a number of other federal agencies concluded that legislative changes were needed to best support unified strategic planning across programs. Labor said it provided technical assistance on Workforce Investment Act reauthorization bills, which included unified planning requirements, to Congress at its request. In July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was enacted. The law requires states to develop a unified state plan that covers all designated core programs in order to receive certain funding. As a result, states' implementation of the requirement may enable them to increase administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs.
Department of Health and Human Services 2. To facilitate further progress by states and localities in increasing administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs, the Secretaries of Labor and HHS should work together to develop and disseminate information that could inform such efforts. This should include information about: (1) state initiatives to consolidate program administrative structures; and (2) state and local efforts to colocate new partners, such as TANF, at one-stop centers. Information on these topics could address challenges faced, strategies employed, results achieved, and remaining issues. As a part of this effort, Labor and HHS should examine the incentives for states and localities to undertake such initiatives and, as warranted, identify options for increasing such incentives.
Closed - Implemented
The Departments of Labor and HHS worked together to help increase administrative efficiencies. Labor reported that, in March 2012, the department and HHS hosted the first TANF/WIA Coordination Study Technical Work Group meeting. According to Labor, this study focused on identifying and documenting potentially promising practices in coordinating TANF/WIA services at the state and local levels. The study, which was done under contract and overseen by HHS, was completed in January 2015. HHS said it continues to promote strategies to improve coordination and achieve administrative efficiencies. It cited, as an example, workshops that included sessions on sharing best practices and strengthening collaborations between TANF and WIA. In March 2013, HHS released a technical assistance report titled "Navigating Federal Programs to Build Sustainable Career Pathways in the Health Professions: A Guide for Health Opportunity Grants Programs." This report provided an overview of funding and issues programs should consider in order to leverage these resources. According to HHS, it also continued to conduct technical assistance activities specifically related to TANF-WIA coordination. Labor officials said that Labor, HHS, and a number of other federal agencies met beginning in mid-2011 to assess the feasibility of promoting joint strategic planning across programs. Cross-program planning is potentially one way to increase administrative efficiencies and align programs in a manner that avoids duplication and overlap. Labor said the agencies concluded that legislative changes were needed to best support unified planning. Labor said it provided technical assistance on Workforce Investment Act reauthorization bills, which included unified planning requirements, to Congress at its request. In July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was enacted. The law requires states to develop a unified state plan that covers all designated core programs in order to receive certain funding. As a result, states' implementation of the requirement may enable them to increase administrative efficiencies in employment and training programs.

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