WIA Reauthorization Should Prioritize Services for Low-Income Adults

Jul 08, 2010

By Anna Suhring

As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), CLASP recommends that it strengthen the act's requirement making low-income adults a priority for receiving services.

In the recently published piece, Strengthening Priority of Service for Low-Income Adults through the Workforce Investment Act, CLASP senior policy analyst Neil Ridley notes that since the 1990s, the nationwide percent of low-income adults receiving WIA services has declined considerably. This has happened even though federal guidance recommends that low-income should have first access to available workforce development activities.

WIA provides training to individuals seeking work. The program's structure allows local and state Workforce Investment Boards to deliver different services to workers based on their employment histories and meeting of necessary requirements. This means that those receiving services have varying economic and employment backgrounds.

Despite limited WIA funding, states and localities can decide whether to follow federal guidelines calling for targeting training services to low-income adults.

CLASP analyzed Workforce Investment Act Standardized Record Data (WIASRD) data for the year 2008 to better understand the decline in low-income people receiving and completing training through WIA.

The analysis resulted in several notable findings. Targeting of intensive and training services to low-income adults varies greatly among states, as does targeting of training services to such poor workers. A few states with especially low proportions of low-income people receiving services skewed nationwide data. When data from these states are excluded, the rate of low-income participation across the country rises considerably.

Vagueness in current federal regulations leads to inconsistent implementation from state to state. To overcome this barrier, CLASP recommends that Congress adopt stronger standards to ensure low-income adults receive first priority in obtaining WIA-funded intensive and training services.


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