National Emergency Grants:

Labor Has Improved Its Grant Award Timeliness and Data Collection, but Further Steps Can Improve Process

GAO-06-870: Published: Sep 5, 2006. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2006.

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Between January 2004 and December 2005, more than 30,000 mass layoffs involving 50 or more workers occurred in the United States, causing more than 3.4 million workers to lose their jobs. National emergency grants expand services to laid-off workers when other state and federal programs are insufficient to meet their needs. GAO assessed (1) whether Labor has shortened grant award times since GAO's 2004 report and was meeting own timeliness goal, (2) the uniformity of the program data that Labor now collects, and (3) Labor's oversight of national emergency grant projects. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed information for program year 2004 and the first 2 quarters of 2005 and compared it with data collected for program years 2000- 2002.

We found that Labor's new electronic application system has, on average, shortened award processing time and most national emergency grants were awarded within Labor's goal of 30 working days as measured by GAO--from the time the application is submitted to the issuance of the award letter. In program year 2004, Labor averaged 25 working days to award grants, in contrast to program years 2000-2002, when it averaged 50 working days. Moreover, in program year 2004, Labor awarded 70 percent of all grants within 30 working days, in contrast to 38 percent for program years 2000- 2002. Although Labor has improved the overall timeliness for awards, award times ranged from 1 to 90 working days and varied by type of grant. For example, disaster grants were awarded, on average, in 16 days, but regular grants were awarded, on average, in 45 days. Delays in obtaining funds adversely impacted some grantees' ability to provide services. Also, we found that Labor's electronic application system and its timeliness goal did not capture every phase of the award process. In addition, users of this system reported some technical problems. Labor has taken steps to improve its two main sources of data for assessing how grant funds are used--the quarterly progress reports and the Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD) database. Labor introduced a new electronic quarterly report system in program year 2004. Since then, grantees have generally been submitting uniform and consistent information. Also, our review of available WIASRD data for program year 2004 shows that at least 92 percent of states that received national emergency grants included information on these grants in their WIASRD submissions. Labor's regional offices oversee each project to track performance and compliance with program requirements by conducting various monitoring activities, including approving program operating plans, reviewing quarterly progress reports, and conducting site visits. However, Labor has not issued complete, program-specific guidance that would standardize monitoring practices across regions, states, and local areas and help ensure consistent practices. In addition, officials in most of the states and local areas we visited said that Labor does not regularly help disseminate information about how states and local areas are managing their national emergency grant projects.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and system, accurately assess the time it takes to award grant funds, and improve its guidance to states and local areas, the Secretary of Labor should take additional actions. In particular, Labor should distribute more complete guidance and tools for monitoring grant projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor has implemented a process to better manage and improve grant performance reporting, including eliminating duplicative reporting requirements for grantees and issuing clear guidance to grantees on performance reporting expectations. In addition, Employment and Training Administration regional offices work with state grantees to ensure the entire workforce system understands monitoring priorities. They use several monitoring guides, including one specifically designed to monitor disaster grants, to ensure consistency of reviews across the nation by different reviewers, and to ensure grantees understand how monitoring will take place and what will be reviewed during monitoring efforts.

    Recommendation: In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and system, accurately assess the time it takes to award grant funds, and improve its guidance to states and local areas, the Secretary of Labor should take additional actions. In particular, Labor should solicit information from users of the application system to guide future refinements to this system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of National Response has upgraded the National Emergency Grant application system and has incorporated feedback from users and the results of comprehensive testing by the Employment and Training Administration's technical team.

    Recommendation: In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and system, accurately assess the time it takes to award grant funds, and improve its guidance to states and local areas, the Secretary of Labor should take additional actions. In particular, Labor should extend its electronic application system and its own timeliness measurement process to capture the entirety of the award process from the perspective of grant applicants, specifically through final approval and issuance of award letters by the Secretary.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of National Response reported that it would explore possibilities to build on its present process and improve procedures. In FY2010, Labor reported that its National Emergency Grant e-System now captures and records the time that a complete grant application is submitted through the e-System until the time that the grantee receives an award. This captures the timeliness of the entire awards process.

    Recommendation: In order for Labor to better manage the grant award process and system, accurately assess the time it takes to award grant funds, and improve its guidance to states and local areas, the Secretary of Labor should take additional actions. In particular, Labor should explore cost-effective ways to disseminate information to states and local areas to help them learn about promising practices for managing national grant projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2008, the Employment and Training Administration awarded Abt Associates a contract to conduct an analysis that will identify and document promising practices for reemployment and strategic partnerships that were implemented under National Emergency Grants. Doing this in a usable and transferable fashion can assist the replication of these activities nationwide.

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