Multiple Employment and Training Programs:

Providing Information on Colocating Services and Consolidating Administrative Structures Could Promote Efficiencies

GAO-11-92: Published: Jan 13, 2011. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 2011.

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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.

Due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), both the number of--and funding for--federal employment and training programs have increased since our 2003 report, but little is known about the effectiveness of most programs. In fiscal year 2009, 9 federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 programs--an increase of 3 programs and roughly $5 billion since our 2003 report. This increase is due to temporary Recovery Act funding. Nearly all programs track multiple outcome measures, but only five programs have had an impact study completed since 2004 to assess whether outcomes resulted from the program and not some other cause. Almost all federal employment and training programs, including those with broader missions such as multipurpose block grants, overlap with at least one other program in that they provide similar services to similar populations. These programs most commonly target Native Americans, veterans, and youth, and some require participants to be economically disadvantaged. Although the extent to which individuals receive the same employment and training services from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Employment Service (ES), and Workforce Investment Act Adult (WIA Adult) programs is unknown, the programs maintain separate administrative structures to provide some of the same services, such as job search assistance, to low-income individuals. Agency officials acknowledged that greater administrative efficiencies could be achieved in delivering these services, but said factors, such as the number of clients that any one-stop center can serve and one-stops' proximity to clients, particularly in rural areas, could warrant having multiple entities provide the same services. Options that may increase efficiencies include colocating services and consolidating administrative structures, but implementation may pose challenges. While WIA Adult and ES services are generally colocated in one-stop centers, TANF employment services are colocated in one-stops to a lesser extent. Florida, Texas, and Utah have consolidated their welfare and workforce agencies, and state officials said this reduced costs and improved services, but they could not provide a dollar figure for cost savings. An obstacle to further progress in achieving greater administrative efficiencies is that little information is available about the strategies and results of such initiatives. In addition, little is known about the incentives states and localities have to undertake such initiatives and whether additional incentives may be needed. Labor and HHS should disseminate information about state efforts to consolidate administrative structures and colocate services and, as warranted, identify options for increasing incentives to undertake these initiatives. In their comments, Labor and HHS agreed that they should disseminate this information.

Status Legend:

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  • 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: 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Open

    Comments: As GAO recommended in January 2011, the Departments of Labor (Labor) and HHS continue to work together to help increase administrative efficiencies but have not yet completed their efforts. 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 focuses on identifying and documenting potentially promising practices in coordinating TANF/WIA services at the state and local levels. The TANF/WIA study is expected to be completed by September 30, 2013 and published in early 2014. On June 8, 2012, Labor issued guidance to states, 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 encourages 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. 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. Examples of efficiencies could include reduction in program overlap and administrative costs, and stronger coordination and alignment across programs and funding streams. Labor also reported that the department, HHS, and the Department of Education have 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 have concluded that legislative changes are needed to best support unified strategic planning across programs. Labor said the departments will continue to examine incentives for states and localities to undertake opportunities for cross-program planning to increase administrative efficiencies and alignment of programs such as WIA and TANF. We will close this recommendation when the TANF/WIA study is completed and disseminated to states and localities, and when Labor and HHS carry out their plans to examine incentives for states and localities to increase administrative efficiencies.

    Recommendation: 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.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Open

    Comments: As GAO recommended in January 2011, Labor and HHS continue to work together to help increase administrative efficiencies, but have not yet completed their efforts. 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 focuses on identifying and documenting potentially promising practices in coordinating TANF/WIA services at the state and local levels. The TANF/WIA study is expected to be completed by September 30, 2013, and published in early 2014. 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 the 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 provides 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. We will close this recommendation when the TANF/WIA study is completed and disseminated to states and localities, and when Labor and HHS carry out their plans to examine incentives for states and localities to increase administrative efficiencies.

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