Friday, June 26, 2009

ARRA, Beyond Transit: Workforce Development

Within the transit community, the primary focus of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) interest is on the $8.4 billion in transit capital investments for urban, rural and tribal areas.

But what about other programs? This posting takes a quick look at just one of the other agencies involved in ARRA, the workforce development programs administered by the Department of Labor's (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA).

Under ARRA, a total of $20 billion has been routed to DOL. Out of this amount, ETA received $4.0 billion, of which $1.2 billion was for WIA youth employment programs, $495.0 million for WIA adult employment and training programs, $1.4 billion for WIA dislocated worker programs, $396.0 million for Wagner-Peyser Act employment services, and $500.0 million for unemployment compensation. The WIA and Wagner-Peyser elements were allocated to states using the same formulas as their "regular" (non-ARRA) allotments of these funds. That distribution was announced on March 19, 2009. These ARRA funds must be spent by June 30, 2011.

For the most part, these allotments were folded into states' existing WIA and W-P programs. ARRA did stipulate certain types of employment ("casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool") for which these funds could not be used. ARRA further required that its funds be prioritized to serve recipients of public assistance and low-income adults, in contrast to "regular" WIA and W-P funds, which don't allow that sort of prioritization.

States are required to submit WIA/W-P plan amendments to ETA no later than June 30, 2009, that detail their plans for spending the ARRA allocations. There were requirements for stakeholder input and participation in development of these plan amendments.

Because states are just now in the process of completing and submitting their plan amendments, it's too soon to tell how ARRA funds are helping achieve recovery among the country's workforce programs. For transportation stakeholders already engaged with their workforce partners, there should be opportunities, but no surprises, as all the WIA programs (youth, adult, and dislocated worker) allow their funds to be used for a variety of support services, which specifically include transportation. Under ARRA, as with WIA, the details are left in the hands of state and local workforce boards.

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