States Should Prioritize High-Need Adults in WIOA State Plan Updates

By Anna Cielinski

States are required by the U.S. Department of Labor to update their four-year Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plan every two years, with the current update due by March 15, 2018. States and advocates should ensure these revised plans do more to prioritize high-need adults.

WIOA, specifies “priority of service” for high-need adults—defined to include “public assistance recipients, other low-income individuals, and individuals who are basic skills deficient”—in the WIOA Title I Adult program [Sec. 134(c)(3)(E)]. In the previous Workforce Innovation Act (WIA), should states attest that their funding was limited, they were not required to prioritize service to these populations. Under WIOA, the priority is in place regardless of funding levels. 

Since priority of service is mandated, the WIOA state plan template required states in their original 2016 plans to answer a question on how they will implement and monitor this priority. CLASP recommended that states respond with a number of key elements described in the fact sheet “How to Improve States’ Priority of Service for High-Need Adults in WIOA State Plan Updates.” When we reviewed states’ original plans, we found they varied greatly on this priority, but no state included all of CLASP’s recommendations. In their upcoming revisions, states should improve their plans by addressing the CLASP recommendations on how to best serve high-need adults.

If states do not improve their plans, advocates should hold states responsible during the notice and comment period, which is different for every state. Locate your state on the fact sheet to see what it did well and where it could improve on the question of prioritizing high-need adults. Then, use this insight during any comment period or hearing to make suggestions on revising the update of your state’s plan.

If you need assistance in helping states improve their plans on this topic, contact Anna Cielinski at