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FAQs From Dislocated Worker Service Integration Forums

INTEGRATED SERVICES FOR DISLOCATED WORKERS

Q. A-1. How can states develop policies that integrate programs while different programs (i.e., WIA, TAA) have different governing mandates?

Answer: States already have a great deal of authority to integrate. It is often unrealized and underutilized.

Explanation: Different workforce investment statutes are created at different times under different circumstances, with different purposes by Congress. They do not always neatly and rationally align. That is not to say that improvements cannot be made, but conceptually, workforce investment programs constitute a mixed set of tools brought together (at the One-Stop level) with one constant theme. The theme is that a Governor, as chief executive of the state, is granted a certain level of authority to appoint, interpret, define and customize key features of workforce investment programs. The Department of Labor recognizes the importance of gubernatorial flexibility and is committed to helping states achieve maximum integration, economies of scale, and customer service within existing law, and to seek improvements in laws that have unintended or unforeseen consequences. It is important that states look for ways to manage programs effectively and utilize any flexibility that may currently exist to better serve dislocated workers.

Q. A-2. How does the workforce investment system determine which funding to use first for training when multiple sources of funding are available?

Answer: There is no legislatively prescribed sequence of funding. Worker needs, eligibility and availability of dollars are the driving factors.

Explanation: Workforce investment (and related) program statutes that provide funds contain broad language designed to position a particular program as a resource of last resort (if other funding sources are otherwise available to be used first). This often makes for confusing and difficult implementation on the ground as program operators feel compelled to seek ways to use other dollars before using those which they control. In the case of dislocated worker program integration, here is a common sense way to view the issue:

WIA Formula Adult and Dislocated Worker dollars are the most plentiful among workforce investment funds. They have the broadest eligibility criteria. These most flexible dollars should be used first (although this is not required by law). Good integration planning views these dollars as the context which other programs can be used to supplement.

National Emergency Grant (NEG) and Trade dollars are special, event-triggered resources.

Trade dollars are tied to a particular approved petition for a declining industry and can only be used in this situation. Individuals who qualify for help under Trade are usually a subset of the broader group eligible under the Adult or Dislocated Worker formula grant. For trade-certified dislocated workers, TAA funds are generally used first for the training needs of trade-certified dislocated workers if TAA training funds are available.

NEG funds are tied to a particular national emergency or company-specific situation. Individuals who qualify for help under a NEG are usually a subset of the broader group eligible under the WIA Dislocated Worker formula grant program. Should WIA formula funds be insufficient to provide training or other employment-related services, a determination by a state should be made on whether to apply for NEG funds.
Q. A-3. Since there is confusion over a number of program issues (six criteria for qualifying for training under TAA fund utilization, co-enrollment, etc.), is there a federal plan to increase the training of professional staff at both the state and local levels on assistance to dislocated workers through WIA, NEG and TAA?

Answer: Yes.

Explanation: Now that the Dislocated Worker Forums held in each of the ETA Regions have been completed, we are planning more program specific training to address not only the issues raised in this question, but training on preparing and submitting NEG applications based upon the recently-published NEG application guidelines, published in the Federal Register on April 27, 2004, and TEGL 16-03 issued on January 26, 2004. The goal is to complete at least the first phase of this training by July 1, 2004, when the NEG e-applications will be required. Additional training on the Trade Reform Act of 2002 covering such areas as the need for comprehensive assessments, the appropriate use of the six criteria required for entry into trade-approved training and other important aspects of the integration of dislocated worker services through the One-Stop Career Center system will be addressed.

We welcome any suggestions regarding training and what is specifically needed. Although we may not be able to address all needs by the July 1 date, it will provide us with your priorities for the next phases, and how the training can best meet the needs of state and local workforce investment partners.

Q. A-4. Should programs drive performance, or performance drive programs-and therefore funding?

Answer: Worker needs should drive everything. The satisfaction of worker needs (by the use of different program funding streams in order to be comprehensive) should result in performance, not be dictated by it.

Explanation: The array of services available through the workforce investment system is flexible and meant to be designed to fit the needs of individuals to help achieve the primary objective of all programs - a rapid return to employment in the context of the time needed by each individual. WIA, for example, permits a person to work while being re-trained to meet wage goals, an important strategy for many individuals. In addition, program performance standards are negotiable and renegotiable. We (federal, state and local government) must manage program design and performance requirements around the worker.

Q. A-5. If fund consolidation between the adult and dislocated worker programs is voted down in WIA reauthorization, what happens to the integration message?

Answer: Nothing. Integration of services through the One-Stop Career Center system for dislocated workers is not contingent upon the consolidation of adult and dislocated worker programs under WIA.

Explanation: Dislocated worker needs (and our responsibility to address them as effectively as possible) continue no matter what. Integration means working smarter. Without reauthorization as proposed, it will be harder to accomplish this, but we must.
Q. A-6. We have heard increasingly that an important customer in our system is or should be business. Yet, all of our discussions have focused on the dislocated worker. This double message is confusing.

Answer: You have not heard that business is the customer, but rather, that business is a customer in our system just as surely as workers are. While this seems self-evident (i.e., to be a successful worker one needs successful work), it has not been a major policy emphasis in the past.

Explanation: The training that the workforce investment system approves for the dislocated worker and pays for with taxpayer dollars must meet the current and future needs of businesses in the local workforce investment areas across the country. In order for training to be "demand-driven" it must be conducted in concert with those that create the demand. Business is not just a partner, it is the ultimate consumer of workforce investment system output, providing the specifications against which we must train and validate our success by hiring. Program integration to more fully prepare workers for business-defined jobs now and in the future is perfectly consistent with meeting the needs of both customers.
Q. A-7. When will we be able to use dislocated worker funds with the original employer in order to avert layoffs?

Answer: You can do so now. But such use is limited.

Explanation: WIA currently authorizes using the funds reserved for "statewide" activities (up to 15% adult, dislocated worker and youth allotments) to serve incumbent workers (and there is wide flexibility in defining the term). States may decide to use a portion of any funds set aside for this purpose to address incumbent workers' needs, including layoff aversion. Rapid response funds (up to 25 percent) reserved by the state from its Dislocated Worker formula program allotment may be used to assist with developing plans to avert layoffs, as discussed in the WIA regulations, and defined in WIA Sec. 101(38) . Generally layoff aversion initiatives should be undertaken in collaboration with state and/or local economic development agencies, which frequently have training funds for complementary purposes. In addition, rapid response funds may be used to provide services under WIA Sec. 134(a)(2)(A)(ii) to individuals that qualify as dislocated workers under WIA Sec. 101(9) who have not yet been laid off but who have received a notice of layoff or closure.

Q. A-8. How does the Department of Labor plan to address concerns (raised at the Regional Forums for Dislocated Worker Service Integration) that TAA participants are more difficult to serve and obtain lower outcomes than other dislocated workers and, therefore, create a disincentive to co-enroll?

Answer: The Department of Labor believes it is necessary for service to be customer-centered. Co-enrollment should be driven by what is needed and best for the dislocated worker, not by impact on performance standard achievement.

Explanation: Co-enrollment of intensively trained dislocated workers is a reasonable expectation and is consistent with the premise that every applicant deserves equal opportunity of service. Moreover, the taxpayers' investment in training trade-affected workers is significant and relies strongly on an integrated service strategy where One-Stop centers provide the wraparound services needed to obtain reemployment. Justification for this level of investment requires careful assessment of individual skills and abilities, selection of training providers in demand occupations, and provision of all necessary reemployment services once training is completed in order to ensure a successful return on this investment.

TAA participants are eligible for up to 104 weeks of training with an additional 26 weeks for remedial education. These individuals are also eligible for income support throughout their training as well as job search and relocation allowances should reemployment not be available within their respective commuting areas. This gives states reasonable flexibility in designing service strategies, particularly with regard to essential wraparound services, to maximize successful outcomes of trade affected workers.

The Department does, however, recognize the concerns voiced by states at the Regional Forums that co-enrollment of TAA recipients into WIA may have negative consequences for performance outcomes. In response to these concerns, analysis of state reported data was carried out to determine empirically if these consequences were prevalent and pervasive throughout the workforce investment system. These results, however, were inconclusive and further study of this issue is warranted. A contributing factor to the inconclusiveness of the data is the fact that, although a requirement, Trade program operators often do not use the same unique identifier for co-enrolled participants as WIA does. The Department will re-emphasize this requirement in a separate instruction to the Trade program.

Because the co-enrollment data are inconclusive, the Department has decided to design, implement and evaluate a pilot project to ascertain the effect on outcomes of co-enrollment and provision of a full compliment of integrated services to TAA recipients. Participating states will be granted relief from sanctions, including receipt of WIA incentive funds, related to meeting negotiated wage replacement performance outcomes. The pilot specifications and criteria for participation will be announced separately through an official Department of Labor communication directive. The effort will be guided by an independent contractor. State participation will be voluntary. We expect the pilot to be implemented this winter and to last approximately two years.

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