oversight

National Emergency Grants: Services to Dislocated Workers Hampered by Delays in Grant Awards, but Labor Is Initiating Actions to Improve Grant Award Process

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-11-14.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Requesters




November 2003
                NATIONAL
                EMERGENCY
                GRANTS
                Services to Dislocated
                Workers Hampered by
                Delays in Grant
                Awards, but Labor Is
                Initiating Actions to
                Improve Grant Award
                Process




GAO-04-222
Contents


Letter                                                                                                            1


Appendix I             Briefing Slides                                                                            5



Appendix II            Listing of Surveyed States Awarded a Regular Grant                                        23



Appendix III           Summary of Funds Awarded for Regular, Disaster,
                       and Dual Enrollment National Emergency Grant                                              24



Appendix IV            Number of Days to Award Regular Grants by State                                           26



Related GAO Products                                                                                             28




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                       Page i                                           GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   November 14, 2003

                                   The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Committee on Health, Education, Labor,
                                    and Pensions
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Patty Murray
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Employment, Safety
                                    and Training
                                   Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
                                   United States Senate

                                   Between 2000 and 2002, almost 60,000 mass layoffs of 50 or more workers
                                   occurred resulting in nearly 7 million workers losing their jobs. The
                                   Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 authorizes the Department of
                                   Labor to award national emergency grants to affected states and local
                                   areas to provide employment and training assistance to workers affected
                                   by major economic dislocations, such as plant closures, and major
                                   disasters, such as floods and hurricanes. Although national emergency
                                   grants are intended to be a timely response to unexpected events,
                                   questions arose during congressional hearings in April 2003 about whether
                                   national emergency grant funds were getting to state and local areas
                                   quickly enough to help workers when they needed it the most.

                                   WIA specifies separate funding streams for each of the act’s main client
                                   groups—adults, youths, and dislocated workers—and requires the
                                   Secretary of Labor to reserve 20 percent of dislocated worker funds for
                                   national emergency grants, demonstrations, and technical assistance.
                                   States and local areas apply to the Secretary for national emergency grants
                                   when they need additional funds to assist dislocated workers. These
                                   include regular grants, which provide employment and training assistance
                                   to workers who lost their jobs due to layoffs and plant closings; disaster
                                   grants, which provide temporary employment to workers affected by
                                   natural disasters and other catastrophic events; and dual enrollment grants
                                   to provide supplemental assistance to workers who have been certified by
                                   Labor to receive services under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform
                                   Act of 2002. Workers eligible under dual enrollment grants are typically
                                   workers who have lost their jobs because of increased imports from, or


                                   Page 1                                   GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
shifts in production to, foreign countries. At least 85 percent of the
Secretary’s 20 percent funds must be used for national emergency grants,
and these funds can only be awarded during the year the funds are
allotted. From July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2003, Labor used these funds to
award over $614 million in national emergency grants to 46 states and the
District of Columbia, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Because of your concern about whether national emergency grants were
awarded to states and local areas quickly enough to provide services to
workers when they are most needed, you asked us to (1) determine the
length of time Labor takes to award national emergency grants,
(2) determine the effect delays in grant awards have on the ability of states
and local areas to provide workers with employment and training services,
and (3) identify actions Labor is taking to improve the timeliness of grant
awards. To respond to these issues, we interviewed Labor officials at both
headquarters and regional offices, reviewed Labor files for all grants
awarded between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003, and surveyed officials in
the 39 states that had received at least one regular national emergency
grant during that period. We received responses from 38 states. We
conducted our work from March to October 2003 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

On November 5, 2003, we briefed your staffs on the interim results of our
ongoing work. This report formally conveys the information provided
during that briefing. Appendix I contains the briefing slides.

In summary, we found that Labor awards virtually all of the funds
available each year for national emergency grants, but that it rarely awards
regular national emergency grants within its goal of 30 days.1 Nearly
90 percent of regular grant awards took longer than 30 days, and about
46 percent took 90 days or more. For regular grants, which represent
about 64 percent of the grants and 58 percent of the funds awarded
between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003, it took Labor an average of 92 days
to send the notification of an award after receiving an application. The
amount of time Labor took to award regular grants appeared to be related
to the quarter in which the application was received. For example, regular


1
  Labor’s goal measures the number of calendar days between the date a complete
application is received and the date the grant award is approved by the Secretary. After
approval, Labor notifies the appropriate congressional office and issues the award letter.
We tracked the number of calendar days between the date the original application was
received and the date of the award letter.




Page 2                                            GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
grant applications received in the first-quarter of a program year 2 averaged
111 days from the time the application was received to the time the grant
was awarded, whereas applications received in the fourth-quarter
averaged 58 days. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of all regular grants
were awarded in the fourth-quarter of the program year, representing
nearly two-thirds of the regular grants funds awarded, and 40 percent
during the final month, representing about one-half of the regular grant
funds awarded. Labor took less time to award dual enrollment and
disaster grants. Dual enrollment grants, which represent about one-third of
the funds awarded, took an average of 20 days to award after the
applications were received, and disaster grants, which represent less than
10 percent of the funds awarded, took an average of 48 days.

Thirty-three of the 39 states that received at least one regular grant
between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2003, said that the amount of time it
takes to receive regular grant funds was a major problem. In fact, 25 of the
states reported that because of the delays in receiving grant funds, they
had to delay or deny services to dislocated workers. Twenty of these
states reported that local areas had to delay training for dislocated
workers because, while waiting for national emergency grant funds, they
did not have funds available to enroll them in training. For example, in
1 state, workers were on waiting lists for 3 to 4 months before they
received training. Officials in another state reported that a local area
cancelled training for over 300 workers because of a delay in receiving
grant funds.

Labor has said it is taking steps to address the length of time it takes to
approve and award national emergency grants. In particular, under
proposed guidelines, Labor would commit to approving a grant application
within 15 business days of receiving a complete application. Labor is also
developing a Web-based, electronic system that would allow states to
apply for grants on-line. The system is also intended to help Labor better
manage the review process by automatically assigning applications to
specific staff members, specifying the number of days that they have to
complete their responsibilities, and tracking their completion dates. Labor
expects that the new guidelines and electronic system will be finalized in
December 2003. In addition, according to Labor officials, they are



2
 A program year begins on July 1 of a year and ends on June 30 of the following year. A
program year is designated by the year in which it begins. Thus, program year 2000 began
on July 1, 2000, and ended on June 30, 2001.




Page 3                                           GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
considering additional steps to enhance the award process, such as
reviewing the entire grant award process and developing training for
states and local areas on applying for national emergency grants. As part
of our ongoing work, we will assess in more detail whether Labor’s
proposed actions are likely to improve the process for awarding national
emergency grants.

We provided a draft of this report to officials at Labor for their technical
review and incorporated their comments where appropriate.


We are sending copies of this report to relevant congressional committees
and other interested parties and will make copies available to others upon
request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on GAO’s
Web site at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staffs have any questions
about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-7215 or Joan Mahagan at
(617) 788-0521. Wayne Sylvia and Yunsian Tai also made key contributions
to this report.




Sigurd R. Nilsen
Director, Education, Workforce,
  and Income Security Issues




Page 4                                     GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                    Appendix I: Briefing Slides

Appendix I: Briefing Slides




       National Emergency Grants

                         Briefing for Staff of
        Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Ranking Minority Member
     Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
                                 and
           Senator Patty Murray, Ranking Minority Member
         Subcommittee on Employment, Safety, and Training
     Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

                              November 5, 2003



                                                                                 1




                    Page 5                        GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                  Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Objectives

Our objectives were to

• determine the length of time the Department of Labor takes
  to award national emergency grants,

• determine the effects delays in awards have on the ability of
  states and local areas to provide workers with employment
  and training services, and

• identify actions Labor is taking to improve the timeliness of
  grant awards.

                                                                               2




                  Page 6                        GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                            Appendix I: Briefing Slides




    Scope and Methodology

    To attain our objectives, we
    • interviewed Labor officials at both headquarters and regional
      offices;
    • reviewed Labor files for all national emergency grants
      awarded during program years1 2000 through 2002 (July 1,
      2000 through June 30, 2003);
    • surveyed officials in the 39 states that received at least one
      regular national emergency grant between program years
      2000 through 2002 (see app. II). Thirty-eight states
      responded; and
    • conducted the review from March to October 2003 in
      accordance with generally accepted government auditing
      standards.
1A program year begins on July 1 of a year and ends on June 30 of the following year and is
                                                                                                     3
designated by the year in which it begins.




                            Page 7                                    GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                   Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Summary of Results

We found that:
• Nearly 90 percent of regular grant awards took longer than Labor’s
  goal of 30 days and 46 percent took 90 days or more.
   • Grant applications received in the first-quarter of program years
      2000-2002, averaged 111 days to award; while applications
      received in the fourth-quarter averaged 58 days.
   • Forty percent of regular grant awards were made in the last
      month of the program year.
• Thirty-three states said delays in grant awards were a major or very
  major problem, and 25 states reported that they had to deny or
  delay services to workers due to delays in receiving funds.
• Labor said it is taking steps to improve the grant award process.


                                                                                4




                   Page 8                        GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                                Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Background

• Between 2000 and 2002, almost 60,000 mass layoffs occurred
  causing nearly 7 million workers to lose their jobs.
• The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) authorized Labor to award
  national emergency grants in a timely manner but did not specify a
  timeframe.
• In a program year, the Secretary can only award National
  Emergency Grants from funds available for that program year.
• Labor has a goal to approve grants within 30 calendar days of
  receiving an application.2
• During program years 2000 through 2002, Labor awarded about
  $614 million for national emergency grants to 46 states, the District
  of Columbia, Guam, and the Federated States of Micronesia (see
  app. III).
2
  Labor’s goal measures the number of calendar days between the date a complete application is received and
the date the grant award is approved. After approval, Labor notifies the appropriate congressional office and   5
issues the award letter.




                                Page 9                                           GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                  Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Background (continued)

National emergency grants include:
   • Regular grants. These provide employment and training
      assistance to workers who lost their jobs due to layoffs or
      plant closings.
   • Disaster grants. These provide temporary jobs to
      workers affected by natural disasters and other
      catastrophic events.
   • Dual enrollment grants. These provide employment and
      training assistance to workers eligible for services under
      the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act of 2002.
      Workers who are eligible include those workers who have
      lost their jobs due to increased imports from, or shifts in
      production to, foreign countries.


                                                                               6




                  Page 10                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
          Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Background (continued)




                                                                       7




          Page 11                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                 Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Regular Grant Awards Take Longer than
Labor’s Goal
• Nearly 90 percent of the regular grants awarded during
  program years 2000 through 2002 took longer than Labor’s
  goal of 30 days.
• About 46 percent of the regular grants took 90 days or more
  from the date Labor received the application.
• On average, regular grants were awarded 92 days after
  receiving the application (see app. IV for average number of
  days by state).
• Other grant types took less time to award:
    • Dual enrollment grants took, on average, 20 days.
    • Disaster grants took, on average, 48 days.

                                                                              8




                 Page 12                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
          Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Percentage of Regular Grants Awarded
within Specified Timeframes




                                                                       9




          Page 13                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                 Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Regular Grant Applications Submitted
Early in the Year Took Longer to Award
• Each year Labor awarded virtually all of the funds available
  for national emergency grants.
• On average, Labor took longer to approve regular grants
  when the applications were received earlier in the program
  year than when received later in the year. During program
  years 2000 to 2002, Labor’s award process averaged
    • 111 days for applications received in the first-quarter,
    • 109 days for applications received in the second-quarter,
    • 100 days for applications received in the third-quarter,
      and
    • 58 days for applications received in the fourth-quarter.


                                                                            10




                 Page 14                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                  Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Most Regular Grant Awards Were Made
Later in Year
• During program years 2000 through 2002, nearly 60 percent
  of regular grant awards were approved in the fourth-quarter
  of the year, representing about two-thirds of the regular grant
  funds awarded.
• Forty percent of these regular grant awards were approved in
  June, the last month of the program year, representing about
  one-half of the regular grant funds awarded.
• This trend is not reflective of when applications were
  submitted because nearly a third of the applications were
  submitted during the second-quarter and about 27 percent
  were submitted in each of the third- and fourth-quarters.


                                                                             11




                  Page 15                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
          Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Percentage of Regular Grant
Applications and Awards by Quarter




                                                                     12




          Page 16                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
          Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Percentage of Regular Grant
Applications and Awards by Month




                                                                     13




          Page 17                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
          Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Most States Consider Amount of Time to
Receive Regular Grants a Problem




                                                                     14




          Page 18                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
            Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Average Number of Days to Award Regular
Grants to States with at Least Five Grants




                                                                       15




            Page 19                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                  Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Delays Hindered States’ Abilities to
Serve Dislocated Workers
• Twenty-five states reported that local areas had to delay or
  deny services to dislocated workers as a result of these
  delays. For example:
   • Local areas in 20 states delayed or cancelled training.
       • One local area placed workers on waiting lists for 3 to
         4 months before training could be provided.
       • Another local area cancelled training for over 300
         workers.
   • Local areas in 6 states could not provide intensive
      services, such as case management, to workers.



                                                                             16




                  Page 20                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                            Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Labor Is Taking Actions to Improve
Timeliness of Grant Awards
• In guidelines under development, Labor is proposing to
  approve grant applications within 15 business days of
  receiving a complete application.
• Labor is developing a Web-based electronic system to
    • enable states to apply for grants on-line; and
    • improve Labor’s management of the grant review process
      by automatically assigning applications to specific staff,
      specifying the number of days they have to complete their
      steps of the process and tracking their completion dates.
• Labor expects to finalize the guidelines and implement the
  electronic system in December 2003.

Note: A draft of the guidelines was made available for public comment in the May 16, 2003, issue
of the Federal Register.                                                                            17




                            Page 21                                    GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                 Appendix I: Briefing Slides




Labor is Taking Actions to Improve
Timeliness of Grant Awards (continued)
• According to officials, Labor is also considering
   • reviewing the entire process for awarding grants and
   • developing training for states and local areas on applying
     for national emergency grants.




                                                                            18




                 Page 22                       GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
               Appendix II: Listing of Surveyed States

Appendix II: Listing of Surveyed States
               Awarded a Regular Grant



Awarded a Regular Grant

               Listing of 39 States Surveyed That Were Awarded a Regular National Emergency Grant during
               Program Years 2000 through 2002
                Alabama                                   Kentucky                                   Ohio
                Arkansas                                  Maine                                      Oklahoma
                California                                Maryland                                   Oregon
                Colorado                                  Massachusetts                              Pennsylvania
                Connecticut                               Michigan                                   Rhode Island
                District of Columbia                      Minnesota                                  South Carolina
                Florida                                   Mississippi                                South Dakota
                Georgia                                   Missouri                                   Tennessee
                Idaho                                     Montana                                    Texas
                Illinois                                  Nebraska                                   Vermont
                Indiana                                   Nevada                                     Virginia
                Iowa                                      New Hampshire                              Washington
                Kansas                                    New Jersey                                 Wisconsin
               Source: GAO analysis of national emergency grants awarded between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003.




               Page 23                                                              GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                                  Appendix III: Summary of Funds Awarded for

Appendix III: Summary of Funds Awarded for
                                  Regular, Disaster, and Dual Enrollment
                                  National Emergency Grant


Regular, Disaster, and Dual Enrollment
National Emergency Grant
Program Years 2000 through 2002
                                            Program year        Program year          Program year
        a
 State                                             2000                2001                  2002                 Total
 Alabama                                      $6,100,000           $3,461,359              $765,689         $10,327,048
 Arizona                                        1,271,931                      0           2,747,960          4,019,891
 Arkansas                                       9,745,980                      0           1,433,566         11,179,546
 California                                   42,631,721            2,679,762              1,896,786         47,208,269
 Colorado                                               0           3,700,000              3,509,933          7,209,933
 Connecticut                                    1,202,002           1,534,400              3,203,075          5,939,477
 District of Columbia                            876,573                       0                   0            876,573
 Federated States of Micronesia                         0                      0           1,150,000          1,150,000
 Florida                                         212,346            8,602,272              8,603,858         17,418,476
 Georgia                                                0           3,026,880               420,000           3,446,880
 Guam                                                   0                      0         13,300,000          13,300,000
 Idaho                                          1,072,489           1,800,000              3,373,185          6,245,674
 Illinois                                       5,250,562           7,000,000              4,000,889         16,251,451
 Indiana                                                0           3,505,274              3,769,867          7,275,141
 Iowa                                           4,498,909           4,728,639              6,748,852         15,976,400
 Kansas                                          620,226                       0           5,792,029          6,412,255
 Kentucky                                               0                      0         10,935,804          10,935,804
 Louisiana                                      3,280,000                      0           1,500,000          4,780,000
 Maine                                          1,200,000           6,425,441            10,488,317          18,113,758
 Maryland                                               0           5,970,294              3,181,022          9,151,316
 Massachusetts                                          0          15,697,403            15,938,190          31,635,593
 Michigan                                               0           4,153,666              5,709,991          9,863,657
 Minnesota                                              0           8,000,000            11,990,890          19,990,890
 Mississippi                                            0                      0           1,644,366          1,644,366
 Missouri                                       2,070,883           1,913,322            11,449,938          15,434,143
 Montana                                        9,576,978           2,876,534              2,114,478         14,567,990
 Nebraska                                       1,121,474           2,168,931               236,054           3,526,459
 Nevada                                                 0           1,900,000              3,900,000          5,800,000
 New Hampshire                                          0           5,004,456               470,403           5,474,859
 New Jersey                                     6,245,346             270,000              3,442,318          9,957,664
 New Mexico                                             0                      0            560,842             560,842
 New York                                               0                      0           1,561,851          1,561,851
 North Carolina                                 6,300,000           5,989,718              7,084,245         19,373,963




                                  Page 24                                          GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
                                                                 Appendix III: Summary of Funds Awarded for
                                                                 Regular, Disaster, and Dual Enrollment
                                                                 National Emergency Grant




                                                                                Program year                    Program year             Program year
         a
 State                                                                                 2000                            2001                     2002                 Total
 North Dakota                                                                            378,793                                 0              99,000             477,793
 Ohio                                                                                15,200,826                                  0          11,838,929          27,039,755
 Oklahoma                                                                                          0                  1,175,155               5,609,778          6,784,933
 Oregon                                                                              10,905,717                     11,397,917                4,513,004         26,816,638
 Pennsylvania                                                                        16,139,341                     19,579,042              33,672,196          69,390,579
 Rhode Island                                                                          2,827,470                                 0             268,236           3,095,706
 South Carolina                                                                                    0                             0            3,414,658          3,414,658
 South Dakota                                                                          1,088,725                            250,000           1,093,540          2,432,265
 Tennessee                                                                               375,000                      1,352,774               3,988,873          5,716,647
 Texas                                                                                 7,732,972                    16,943,771                2,111,738         26,788,481
 Utah                                                                                              0                             0             740,230             740,230
 Vermont                                                                                           0                        400,000            985,877           1,385,877
 Virginia                                                                            15,000,000                       4,715,000               5,938,031         25,653,031
 Washington                                                                            6,068,668                      5,000,000             14,361,486          25,430,154
 West Virginia                                                                                     0                  9,499,990               3,000,000         12,499,990
 Wisconsin                                                                             5,554,054                    10,152,032                4,457,451         20,163,537
 Total                                                                           $184,548,986                    $180,874,032             $249,017,425        $614,440,443
Source: GAO analysis of regular, disaster, and dual enrollment grant funds awarded between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003
                                                                 a
                                                                  Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, and Wyoming did not receive any regular, disaster, or dual enrollment
                                                                 national emergency grants.




                                                                 Page 25                                                              GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
             Appendix IV: Number of Days to Award
Appendix IV: Number of Days to Award
             Regular Grants by State



Regular Grants by State


                                                                           Average number of
                                                                          days from receipt of
                                                             a
              State                   Number of regular grants            application to award
              Alabama                                        2                            120
              Arkansas                                       1                             23
              California                                     1                            206
              Colorado                                       1                             62
              Connecticut                                    6                            102
              District of Columbia                           1                            131
              Florida                                        1                             63
              Georgia                                        4                            137
              Idaho                                          4                             70
              Illinois                                       3                             39
              Indiana                                        2                             92
              Iowa                                          16                            103
              Kansas                                         3                             63
              Kentucky                                       3                            126
              Maine                                         13                             91
              Maryland                                       2                             77
              Massachusetts                                  9                             87
              Michigan                                       3                             85
              Minnesota                                      3                            103
              Missouri                                      12                             99
              Montana                                        5                             51
              Nebraska                                       2                             40
              Nevada                                         1                             79
              New Hampshire                                  3                             78
              New Jersey                                     3                            174
              Ohio                                           4                             40
              Oklahoma                                       3                            123
              Oregon                                         6                             96
              Pennsylvania                                   4                            109
              Rhode Island                                   3                             32
              South Carolina                                 1                            122
              South Dakota                                   3                             82
              Tennessee                                      2                            116
              Texas                                          3                            122




             Page 26                                     GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
Appendix IV: Number of Days to Award
Regular Grants by State




                                                                            Average number of
                                                                           days from receipt of
    State                     Number of regular grantsa                    application to award
    Virginia                                               2                                   106
    Vermont                                                1                                    90
    Wisconsin                                              5                                    77
a
 Represents the number of regular grants for which complete information was available. There were a
total of 14 regular grants for which we did not have complete information.




Page 27                                               GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
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             Page 28                                GAO-04-222 National Emergency Grants
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