The federal government funds many employment and training programs – largely through the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services – to help low-income and other job seekers obtain employment. In January, 2011, the GAO reported that in FY 2009 nine separate federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 employment and training programs, but that since 2004 only five of those programs had been assessed to determine whether job placements resulted from the program or some other cause.1 The GAO also uncovered tremendous overlap in that almost all the federal employment and training programs provide similar services to similar populations.2
For instance, the GAO could not determine the extent to which individuals receive the same employment and training services from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Employment Service (ES), and Workforce Investment Act Adult (WIA Adult) programs, but did find that the programs maintain separate administrative structures to provide the same services. Florida, Texas and Utah have already consolidated their welfare and workforce agencies, and state officials report that doing so has reduced costs and improved services.3
The GAO report noted that one obstacle to achieving administrative efficiencies is the lack of available information about incentives for states and localities to undertake such initiatives and their strategies and results.4 Block granting these programs to the states would allow them greater flexibility to achieve benefits and savings from effectively training and placing their citizens in jobs.
President Reagan understood that employment and training was best handled by states, and in his FY1987 budget proposal he attempted to consolidate job training into a block grant.
“Many services can be provided better by State and local governments. Over the years, the Federal Government has preempted many functions that properly ought to be operated at the State or local level. This budget contemplates an end to unwarranted Federal intrusion into the State and local sphere and restoration of a more balanced, constitutionally appropriate, federalism with more clearly delineated roles for the various levels of government. Examples include new consolidations of restrictive small categorical grant programs into block grants for transportation and environmental protection, at reduced Federal costs. Continued funding is maintained for existing block grants for social services, health, education, job training, and community development.”
[Message to the Congress Transmitting the Fiscal Year 1987 Budget, Feb. 5, 1986]
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) represents the most recent attempt to reform employment and training programs. WIA replaced the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and amended the Wagner-Peyser Act. WIA reformed earlier federal job training programs by creating a new centralized workforce system based on One-Stop service centers. The goal was to bring together multiple training programs into a single location.5 The January 2011 GAO report clearly shows these goals for the WIA program have little chance of being achieved at the federal level of government.6