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Workforce Investment News Archive

WIOA Partners: USDA Publishes Final Rule Affecting Eligibility, Benefits and Employment and Training Requirements under SNAP; Addresses the Use of Funds for Provision Job Retention Services; Updates Guidance on E&T Funding Cycle
Jan 6, 2017

The Department of Agriculture has published the final rule on January 6 hat implements provisions of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 affecting the eligibility, benefits, certification, and employment and training (E&T) requirements for applicant or participant ouseholds in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The rule amends the SNAP regulations to:

  • exclude military combat pay from the income of SNAP households;
  • raise the minimum standard deduction and the minimum benefit for small households;
  • eliminate the cap on the deduction for dependent care expenses;
  • index resource limits to inflation; exclude retirement and education accounts from countable resources;
  • clarify reporting requirements under simplified reporting;
  • permit States to provide transitional benefits to households leaving State-funded cash assistance programs;
  • allow States to establish telephonic and gestured signature systems;
  • permit States to use E&T funds to provide job retention services; and
  • update requirements regarding the E&T funding cycle.

These provisions are intended to more accurately reflect needs, reduce barriers to participation, and improve efficiency in the administration of the program. This rule also replaces outdated language in SNAP certification regulations with the new program name and updates procedures for accessing SNAP benefits in drug and alcohol treatment centers and group living arrangements with use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. This rule provides States with regulatory options for conducting telephone interviews in lieu of face-to-face interviews and for averaging student work hours.

Finally, the Department is issuing an interim final rule (with a request for additional comment) that will require that drug and alcohol treatment and group living arrangements (GLA) centers to: Submit completed change report forms to the State agency when a resident leaves the center; notify the State agency within 5 days when the center is not able to provide the resident with their EBT card at departure; and return EBT cards to residents with pro-rated benefits based up on the date of their departure.

This final rule is effective March 7, 2017. The amendments to 7 CFR 273.11(e) and 273.11(f) are being issued as an interim final rule and are effective April 6, 2017. The amendments to 7 CFR 273.2(c)(1)(v) are effective January 8, 2018.

The January 6 FEDERAL REGISTER contains full background, analysis and disposition of public comments received, and the rule.

Q & A Excerpts:

What changes did the Department propose to make to the E&T program?

The Department proposed to implement Section 4108 of the FCEA, which amended Section 6(d)(4) of the Act, to add job retention services of up to 90 days as an allowable E&T component. The Department proposed to revise the SNAP regulations at Sec. 273.7(e)(1) to incorporate this change. We received 64 comments in total on this provision.

Will the Department permit State agencies to determine when the 90 days of services start?

The Department received 61 comments requesting that the rule specify State agency discretion on the start date of job retention services. The Department agrees that individual circumstances may warrant job retention services that begin at various times, such as on the day a job offer is accepted, the day the individual reports the information to his or her E&T case manager, the first day of the job, or other time based on the availability and type of services. Therefore, the Department will permit State agencies to identify when the 90 days of job retention services start.

The Department also received one comment requesting that job retention services be available to an E&T participant for each new job the individual obtains. The Act provides for a period of not more than 90 days of job retention services after an individual who received E&T services gains employment. For example, if an individual gains employment through a new job, receives 90 days of job retention services, and then later finds a different job, he or she would generally not be eligible for a new 90-day period of job retention services. However, if the individual re-engaged in E&T services and then gains new employment, he or she would be eligible for additional job retention services. For example, there may be circumstances where an individual participates in job search, gains employment and receives 90 days of job retention services. This individual may later reengage with E&T after a job loss to search for work or obtain career or technical training to find a better job and could qualify for an additional 90 days of job retention services. The Department does not want to limit State agencies in helping clients obtain regular employment with good wages and career progression. We understand that State agencies are in a better position to determine when job retention services might be appropriate for a new hire and the Department is allowing for State agency flexibility for this issue in Sec. 273.7(e)(1)(viii).

Because job retention services are an E&T component, they need to be connected to receipt of SNAP even as we recognize that they may not begin until after a job commences and, in some cases, a household has left the SNAP program. The Department is taking this opportunity to clarify that an individual must be receiving SNAP benefits in the month of or the month prior to beginning job retention services. The Department is amending Sec. 273.7(e)(1)(viii) in this final rule to this effect.

Are job retention services available to those who previously received E&T services, whether or not it led to employment?

The Department received one comment asking whether job retention services would be available to E&T participants if the components they participated in did not lead directly to employment. The Act provides that these services intend to ensure job retention after an individual who received E&T services gains employment. The Act does not require a link between the E&T activity and employment itself. Additionally, we recognize that it may be difficult to establish a link between participation in an E&T component and gained employment when there is a gap in services or a component does not have a direct link to a job. Therefore, the Department is not requiring evidence of a link between an E&T component and job entry in order for the State agency to provide job retention services. State agencies have discretion on the amount of time that may pass between an E&T component and start of job retention services. However, this rule does require that the household must have been receiving SNAP in the month of or the month prior to beginning job retention services.

Are job retention services limited to those who leave the program due to increased earnings?

The Department received 62 comments stating that the proposed rule unnecessarily limited job retention services to individuals losing SNAP benefits as a result of increased earnings. The comments pointed out that there may be circumstances such as where someone leaving SNAP would not have increased earnings but would need job retention services, such as an individual who took a job with reduced hours at a good wage with the hope that hours would increase or a lower-paying job with the opportunity for quick promotion.

The Department agrees that there may be circumstances where job retention services are appropriate for households leaving SNAP. However, there may also be circumstances where an individual or household is leaving SNAP due to an intentional program violation or failure to comply with SNAP work requirements without good cause. Therefore, the Department is clarifying in Sec. 273.7(e)(1)(viii) that State agencies may extend job retention services to individuals who participated in another E&T component and are leaving SNAP for any reason other than a disqualification. As provided in this rule, the State agency may not disqualify an individual who refuses or fails to comply with job retention services.

The Department is taking this opportunity to clarify that an individual need not complete an E&T component in order to start receiving job retention services. For example, an individual assigned to two months of job search may find a job after two weeks and would then be eligible for job retention services.

Does the 90-day limit apply to case management? The Department received one comment asking for clarification on the limits of case management. State agencies may provide E&T case management to participants as long as a participant is engaged in an E&T program or component. Since job retention is an E&T component, individuals receiving job retention services are eligible for case management up to the 90-day limit.

Are child care and transportation allowable participant reimbursements under a job retention component?

The Department received 60 comments requesting that child care and transportation be included as allowable participant reimbursements under a job retention component. The Department omitted transportation and dependent care from the list of allowable services and reimbursable participation costs in the preamble to the proposed rule because Section (6)(d)(4)(I) of the Act specifically provides for transportation and dependent care as allowable E&T participant reimbursements. The Department is clarifying that transportation and dependent care are allowable participant reimbursements under the job retention component,including for individuals no longer receiving SNAP.

National Governors Association Releases "Promoting Place-Based Strategies to Address Poverty: Exploring the Governor's Role"
Jan 6, 2017

A January 6 advisory from the National Governor's Association:

Growing up poor can have lifelong consequences for an individual and for society as a whole. Impoverished communities have difficulty meeting the needs of their residents. This, in turn, makes it difficult to sustain a thriving community, thereby perpetuating place-based poverty. Place-based strategies -- strategies which include any effort to enhance the livability and quality of life in a given community -- seek to strengthen the physical, social, structural and economic conditions of a community that affect the well-being of the children, families and individuals who live there. Promoting Place-Based Strategies to Address Poverty: Exploring the Governor's Role addresses the potential for place-based strategies to address the needs of impoverished communities and identifies actions governors can take to foster these strategies.

Full Report: Promoting Place-Based Strategies to Address Poverty: Exploring the Governor's Role

America's Workers: A Worthwhile Investment
Jan 6, 2017

Essay by Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez

The Department of Labor's mission statement never more urgent than in a time of economic crisis, like the one President Obama inherited when he took office in 2009. In the three months before his inauguration, the economy hemorrhaged roughly 2.3 million jobs. The U.S. auto industry was flat on its back and at risk of going under. A housing crisis was devastating families and communities. Among workers fortunate enough to keep their job, chances are they had not seen a meaningful raise in years.

The crisis touched everyone and devastated many. Katherine Hackett, a Connecticut mother of two soldiers, got a pink slip after a long career in the health care industry and found herself out of work for more than a year. She wore a winter coat around the house because she could not afford to turn the thermostat above 58 degrees. She told me that she felt a "poverty of spirit." But thanks to Katherine's grit and determination --and assistance from a workforce system that had kicked into high gear and enabled her to access training opportunities -- she is now excelling in a new job.

The administration has overseen a remarkable recovery, and millions of Americans like Katherine Hackett have successfully climbed out of the worst economic crisis in generations. The Labor Department is proud to have played a central role by making targeted investments in the American workforce and renewing our focus on addressing wage and safety violations that undermine shared prosperity.

But despite a strong recovery, too many people aren't yet able to share fully in the prosperity that they help create. Like the fast food worker I met in Detroit who had been evicted from her apartment and was sleeping in her car with her three kids. Like the baggage handler in New Jersey who described to me the pain he felt when he had to tell his son he couldn't afford to buy him a birthday present. Like the school bus driver in Connecticut who had to take her baby on her route because she didn't have paid family leave.

For the last eight years, the hardworking men and women at the Department of Labor have used the tools at our disposal to help these workers and others like them. Together, we have made great progress, but we also know there's more to do to push back on decades-long trends, and that the department is well positioned to continue to pursue this important work after we have passed the baton.

Learn more about the department's accomplishments by reading our Memorandum to the American People.

ETA Releases Two New Research Reports on Connecting UI Claimants to the Workforce System and the Experiences of Three States in Developing Social Media Strategies for Employment Assistance Programs
Jan 6, 2017

The Employment and Training Administration has released two new research reports. Training and Employment Notice 27-16 provides full background on the two reports. Report links and synopses follow.

Strategies for Connecting Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claimants to the Workforce System: Findings from the Implementation Study of the UI Workforce Connectivity Grant Program

The U.S. Department of Labor (Department) has continued to explore strategies to improve UI claimants' access to re-employment services provided through the public workforce system to speed their return to work in good jobs with good wages. The use of virtual service delivery methods to administer the UI program has steadily increased since the 1990s and now most UI claimants apply for and maintain their benefits primarily via the internet or phone. As a result, many claimants are physically disconnected from the workforce system and are often unaware of how to access the range of reemployment, job search, career counseling, and training services available to them. Moreover, the automated systems for filing UI benefits claims and accessing re-employment services are often separate, with limited or no connections between them, making it cumbersome and confusing for individuals to navigate between the two systems. The challenge is how to best connect UI claimants to the services available on-line and in the one-stop centers.

In 2010 the Department established a workgroup comprised of workforce leaders at the local, state, and national levels, and partnered with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) to develop a shared national vision to improve connectivity between UI program service delivery and reemployment services provided through the workforce system, both through one-stop centers and virtually and to promote innovative reemployment service delivery strategies for all job seekers.

To advance this new national vision the Department partnered with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies Information Technology Support Center (NASWA/ITSC) to provide grants to states to implement strategies and technology tools that embodied the different elements of the vision, now referred to as the UI Reemployment Connectivity Project (the project). As part of the connectivity grants program, the Department sponsored an implementation study of the Reemployment Connectivity Project.

Overall, there appeared to be clear benefits to implementing the elements that were part of the connectivity project. However, further evaluation is needed to more clearly gauge the impact of those services and whether they result in sufficient benefits to UI claimants.

Experiences of Three Stages in Developing Social Media Strategies for Employment Assistance Programs

The country's workforce system is continually in need of effective strategies to connect job seekers to job openings and to facilitate rapid entry into suitable employment. One promising tool is social media. Given its explosive growth as a primary communication method in both the professional and personal realms, social media potentially offers the workforce system a way to enhance the job search process and improve employment outcomes. In particular, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is examining social media strategies to improve Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants' access to employment services provided at its American Job Centers (AJCs) with support from the Wagner-Peyser and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs.

As part of its State Demonstration Projects in Providing Reemployment Services to UI Claimants (commonly known as the UI Workforce Connectivity Project), DOL provided grants in 2011 to three states to develop and use social media tools for the workforce system. These three-year grants enabled the states to develop new opportunities and modify existing service delivery processes using social media tools as a way to improve employment outcomes for job seekers, including outreach to job seekers, connecting job seekers and employers, and promoting networking among job seekers. To assess the effectiveness of these tools, DOL sponsored an implementation study of the grants.

While using the social media tools appeared to be useful and resulted in time savings and productivity gains for agency staff, job seekers, and employers, thoughtful implementation of these tools should be exercised to account for the unique circumstances and environments the programs operate within.

ETA to Discontinue Publication of "Notices of Funding Opportunities" in the Federal Register
Jan 6, 2017

The Employment and Training Administration has announced that the agency will no longer publish Notices of Funding Opportunities in the Federal Register. ETA will continue to post the full texts of all ETA's Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) at the government-wide Internet site, http://www.grants.gov, in accordance with the policy directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

An applicant for funding may access the full FOA associated with a synopsis posted at http://www.grants.gov by following the universal resource locator (URL) link included in the synopsis, or by visiting ETA's Web site at http://www.doleta.gov.