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Kristen Cox

February 10, 2011

Mrs. Kristen Cox

Executive Director, Utah Workforce Services

Supporting Increased Flexibility of Resources:  Separate federal funding sources and associated program boundaries can present obstacles to integrated service delivery.  Federal law and Department of Labor regulations place clear limitations on how UI, Wagner-Peyser, and WIA funds can be spent.  While the intent of the limitations is to ensure effective and appropriate program administration, the effect can be to make cross-program integration difficult.  

WIA Title I funds may not be spent on employment generating activities, economic development, and other activities, unless they are directly related to training for eligible individuals.  Providing less restrictive regulations for WIA statewide activity funds could provide greater flexibility in getting individuals re-employed.  Other program issues to consider include:

Real-time access to federal data about customers.  This could reduce administrative costs, support a more streamlined process for the customer, and ensure more accurate delivery of services.  For example, access to Social Security information (SSN verification and benefit payments) is available to states for public assistance programs such as TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid.  However, it is not currently available to support other programs such as WIA and WOTC.

Expanding the scope of the UI program to achieve claimant re-employment would be an efficient use of funds and would help claimants become re-employed as quickly as possible. 

WIA, TANF, and SNAP programs offer waivers and more flexibility. If unemployment is one of our largest issues, why not give states more flexible options to help re-employ job seekers?

  • DOL has recently shown good leadership with its focus on re-employment, its wage subsidy grants, and state consortium initiatives.  It is time to connect benefits and employment into a seamless service delivery strategy without creating funding barriers.
  • Utah has implemented multiple initiatives to help UI claimants become re-employed sooner.  A few of these initiatives have been recognized at the national level.  The U. S. Department of Labor awarded DWS the 2010 UI Innovation Award for our electronic correspondence system and the American Institute of Full Employment awarded DWS the 2010 Best Practices Award for our on-line worker profiling re-employment service program.   These initiatives have helped Utah enjoy one of the lowest average UI duration rates in the country – 16.6 weeks, despite having a fairly high wage replacement rate.  While we have made significant progress, our goal is to continually strive to improve services for employers and job seekers.

Summary of Recommendations

Establish clear expectations for claimants that re-employment is a priority and requires a full-time commitment.
Provide employers with wage, training, and tax incentives that provide economic benefits for employers to expand or retain their workforce.
Increase program and funding integration that supports effective meshing of UI claimants with employers’ workforce needs.  Expansion of the Worker Profiling and Re-employment Services and REA grants are good examples of integrated funding between UI claimants and re-employment services.
Increase flexibility of resources to make cross-program integration more efficient without creating funding barriers or jeopardizing program accountability.