Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs in Danger of Shutting Down

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A week ago, we thought that the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), were safe from the impacts of the federal government shutdown. Now, we’re not so sure. As the shutdown drags on, serious questions are being raised as to how long some WIA programs will be able to continue to operate.

If the shutdown does impact WIA programs, it will affect the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, not youth programs. The Adult programs help economically disadvantaged low-income, out-of-work adults develop workplace skills and find employment.  The Dislocated Worker program focuses on individuals recently laid off from their jobs who need assistance enhancing their job skills and finding employment.  Both programs have proven themselves to be highly effective at helping economically disadvantaged and dislocated workers obtain the training they need and the jobs they desire.

The Adult and Dislocated Worker programs receive their federal-to-state allocations on October 1, the very day the shutdown began, while youth programs receive their allocations in March. DOL, as best as we know, was unable to obligate Adult and Dislocated Worker funds prior to the shutdown, so once last year’s money runs out, states and localities will have no new funds to operate their programs.

While the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs often have “carry forward funds,” or funds left over from the previous fiscal year that they can use in the current fiscal year, it is not clear whether this is the case now. The lack of new obligations, coupled with the sequester cuts that came out of the July 1, 2013 allocations likely means that many states and individual programs don’t have enough money to continue to fund local Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, and if that is the case, they will have to shut down.

And the problems go deeper. While funds that have already been obligated continue to be available for draw down through the Health and Human Services (HHS) Payment Management System (PMS), if the PMS experiences problems it is unlikely that any assistance to resolve those problems will be available. Furthermore, no new grants are being awarded and no program staff is available to answer questions, provide technical assistance, or resolve technical issues until the federal government reopens.

So what does this mean? It means that states and individual programs will have to make decisions about their Adult and Dislocated WIA Programs, and whether they can continue to operate. Hopefully, the shutdown will be over soon and DOL can make the necessary allocations so that no programs will have to turn away Americans in need. But every day that the shutdown continues, the question becomes: how many Adult and Dislocated WIA programs will have to shut their doors, and how soon?

Here is the rub.  This shutdown is purely the result of a manufactured crisis.  We believe there are the votes in both chambers to end this federal government shutdown and pass a clean continuing resolution.  Unless that happens, the job training and workforce development programs that individuals and businesses rely on may have to shut down as well.

Please contact your Representative today by phone, email or twitter, and let them know that you support the passage of a clean continuing resolution for fiscal year 2014. Cities can’t afford this manufactured crisis any longer.

Neil Bomberg

About the author: Neil Bomberg is NLC’s Program Director for Human Development. Through Federal Advocacy, he lobbies on behalf of cities around education, workforce development, health care, welfare, and pensions. Follow Neil on Twitter at @neilbomberg.