The Workforce Investment Act: An Overview and Recommendations


Solutions Brief | March 4, 2014

Files: The Workforce Investment Act: An Overview and Recommendations (PDF | 1.1 MB | 26 pages)

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The Workforce Investment Act
An overview of the United States’ federally funded workforce system, examples of workforce and homeless system collaboration and recommendations for meeting the employment interests and needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

This paper was written for the National Alliance to End Homelessness by Kurt Vannucci and Melissa Young at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights

February 2014

Most people experiencing homelessness want to work. Individuals experiencing homelessness consistently rank paid employment alongside healthcare and housing as a primary need.1 Increased income is a strong predictor of a person exiting homelessness,2 maintaining housing and has multiple physical and mental health benefits.3 Linking individuals and families with stable income is a critical tool in the fight to prevent and end homelessness and is essential for Continua of Care to meet performance measures under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH ACT).

The goal of workforce development is to connect job seekers with employers. This can include matching the skills, experience, and interests of a jobseeker with the needs of an employer, or helping an individual build the necessary skills to meet employer demands. The workforce development system also plays an important role in meeting the economic development goals of communities and regions by preparing job seekers with the skills necessary to attract new industries and meet the changing needs of existing industries. Workforce development professionals often work closely with employers to determine the specific skills required to enter and advance within a particular occupation or industry, and then collaborate with training providers to develop curricula and materials to help people acquire those skills. On an individual level, workforce development professionals help job seekers find employment by providing job leads, connecting them to appropriate training opportunities, and engaging employers.

The employment and training services authorized under the Workforce Investment Act are important to supporting access to employment, education, and training for all job seekers – including individuals experiencing homelessness. With access to WIA employment and training services, job seekers who experience homelessness can be successful in work and chart pathways to self-sufficiency. Several other federal funding streams can also support access to employment and training services, including but not limited to, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families state block grants, Community Development Block Grants, Veterans Reintegration funds, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Employment and Training funds. See Appendix A for other federal funding streams that support access to employment or training services.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

Today America’s public, federally funded workforce development system is authorized by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) (Public Law 105-220), which was passed in 1998. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) administers the programs and services authorized under WIA through funding distributed to states and ultimately local areas to deliver services. The Workforce Investment Act is comprised of five titles. WIA Title I will serve as the basis for this paper. For summaries of WIA Titles II through V, see Appendix C. Title I of the legislation is based on the guiding principles that training and employment programs must be accessible, locally designed, managed, and measured, and chosen by the individuals seeking job security.

WIA Governance

DOLETA maintains influence over state WIA program development. The bulk of funds, save for certain federal reserves, flow to a state-designated agency, which in turn must allocate the majority of resources to local workforce investment boards (LWIB). A portion of funds flows to state workforce investment boards to carry out statewide activities. See DOLETA State Portal Page for WIA plans, reports, and links to respective state agencies.

The LWIB is responsible for program development and delivery in local communities. Designed to align the needs of employers and job seekers, LWIBs must include representatives of local business, mandated WIA partner programs (see Appendix D) and representation from education, organized labor, economic development, and community-based organizations. The Chief Elected Official (CEO) who maintains LWIB authority may also appoint other representatives at his/her discretion.

Although much of each state’s funds are managed at the local level, some level of authority and influence lies within Governors’ offices, including staffing of and participation on the state WIB, allocation and responsibility of WIA funds, and use of reserves held at the state level for statewide activities. See Appendix E for more detail regarding the governance of WIA.

WIA Funding

WIA authorizes and directs three separate funding streams to address the employment needs of adults, youth, and dislocated workers in communities. Funds are distributed by formula, accounting for the relative number of unemployed individuals and disadvantaged adults and youth within a state. The majority of the funds are specifically designated for local programming, while some of the funds are used by the United States Secretary of Labor for grants, demonstrations, and technical assistance. With gubernatorial approval, WIBs may transfer up to 20 percent of adult and dislocated-worker funds between those specified funding streams. Governors also have some discretionary funds at their disposal reserved from each funding stream for program administration and statewide activities. In Fiscal Year 2014, federal formula funding for WIA Adult, Youth, and Dislocated Worker funds was slightly less than $2.6 billion. Aside from an infusion of resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, funding for WIA has been on the decline for over a decade.

The text above is an excerpt, to download the entire document, please click here or on the link above.