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Despite Lagging State Direction, Cities Implement Workforce Investment Act - Summer Program At Risk

By Joan Crigger and Josie Hathway

The Workforce Development Act (WIA), which was enacted in August 1998, will become effective July 1, 2000. It replaces the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) which has provided adults, youth and dislocated workers a second chance to make it in the real world since it was enacted in 1982.

WIA significantly changes how services are provided to those who live in cities and local areas. Some cities have already begun implementation of WIA because they are located in states, which chose to become "early implementation states." In many of these areas, state plans were submitted and approved as early as July 1, 1999, so cities in these states have "a leg up" in getting the program underway before July 1 of 2000.

In some cities, however, WIA implementation is a disaster because states have just begun to move towards forming their State Workforce Investment Boards which is the first step, under WIA, in determining which cities and local areas will provide services and how these services will be delivered.  The result of this delay will be a serious impact on the youth program for summer of 2000 because summer program staff generally begins planning now or in early January in order to begin hiring young people in April. In fact, guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) indicates that local Youth Councils must be in place by January 1, 2000, in order to draw down WIA funds in April that would be used in the summer program. (Another option is for states to submit an abbreviated plan and receive 25 percent of their allotment.) In other states, implementation of WIA is moving along at a fairly good pace but cities still face a major change in how the summer program will be operated.

Summer Program At Risk

The issue is the transition from JTPA to WIA because the Act calls for radical restructuring of youth programs and ends the summer jobs program as mayors know it. The Summer Jobs Program that has provided summer employment and work experience for our nation's at-risk youth since the 1960s will face serious reductions for summer 2000.  Some cities are facing an almost two-thirds reduction in the number of youth who will be served under the program. As cited in the New York Times on December 3, in an article by David M. Herszenhorn, New York City may only serve 5,000 youth this summer. Last summer they served 40,000. Although this is probably the most extreme case, there is no question that the summer program in 2000 will serve fewer people.

The most significant change is that WIA requires the year-round youth program which was funded last year at $130 million, to be combined with the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), funded at $871 million, into one youth block grant. Of this block grant now totaling $1,001 billion, 15 percent is reserved for governors to give them flexibility in their administration of these funds. In the past, 100 percent of the SYEP funds went directly to cities and other localities. Also, thirty percent of the entire youth program must serve out-of-school youth, while most summer youth are 14 - 15 year olds in school.

In addition, WIA requires that all youth who are enrolled in the program must be served year round and does not allow a stand-alone summer program. WIA requires that year-round activities with employment outcomes be part of the plan for each youth which will significantly raise the cost of serving each participant.  The year-round activities are as follows:

  • Tutoring, study skills training and instruction

  • Alternative secondary school services

  • Summer employment opportunities

  • Paid and unpaid work experience

  • Occupational skills training

  • Leadership development activities

  • Support services

  • Adult mentoring

  • Comprehensive guidance and counseling

  • Follow-up services for a year

Mayors have strongly supported systemic change in the nation's workforce development system, which includes a systemic approach to serving youth. Summer jobs are an important component because they provide a window to the world of work for at-risk youth who would not otherwise have an opportunity to earn a paycheck and learn real job skills - especially for 14 and 15 year olds.

 Under WIA, mayors and local elected officials are designing and building a revised system. The first year of implementation involves the establishment of many new services and procedures. Congress intended to create a flexible, evolving system where long-term effectiveness and customer satisfaction determine the success of the system. The first year of the implementation of WIA is viewed as a continuation of the transition period to a comprehensive workforce development system that evolves according to lessons learned during implementation.

Given the Congressional intent of the law - to provide more comprehensive services for youth - locals are building and implementing a different kind of a system particularly when it comes to summer youth activities. The issue is how cities manage the transition process from JTPA to summer jobs under WIA when systems are not fully in place and with fewer dollars available at the local level.

Within these constraints, mayors are providing solutions to deal with this transition. Los Angeles is using TANF surplus to serve approximately the same number of youth as last summer. In other cities, community based organizations are providing the one-year of follow-up service required for summer jobs participants. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is seeking ideas and information on what mayors are doing to handle the transition to summer jobs under WIA.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) acknowledges that there continue to be issues related to transitioning individuals from JTPA to WIA and has offered to assist cities and counties deal with the transition through technical assistance. The Conference is working closely with DOL over the next few months to define transition opportunities for summer youth activities in summer 2000.

Reprinted below is a portion of a memo, which was approved by DOL, which includes an important transition opportunity regarding the summer jobs issue. This memo is a summary of a conference held with DOL officials and city workforce development directors.  We have asked DOL to put this information on their website, .

"DOL's Response to Issues

DOL acknowledges that there continue to be issues related to transitioning individuals from JTPA to WIA, and ETA continues to examine the issues and explore options for resolving them. Some information has been made a available to the system in Q & A's that are posted on the <> website, and one of those items was referenced for the group is a transition opportunity in the following provision. For the purpose of customer service, all summer youth participants who started under JTPA may complete their JTPA service strategy without interruption. JTPA tracking and performance apply - even though WIA funds may be used to complete the JTPA service strategy. Consistent with the legislation, Local Boards are encouraged to provide follow up service for existing participants to improve retention and advancement on the job. WIA service provision applies to new enrollments.

JTPA summer youth participants who have been assessed, have a service strategy developed and have not yet started an activity may start this activity as a JTPA participant if they were enrolled as JTPA before July 1, 2000. JTPA tracking and performance apply.  Once a state fully implements WIA either in PY 99 of PY 2000, all new participants are subject to WIA requirements including follow-up, tracking and performance provisions.

The concern is that as locals use WIA funds to complete JTPA summer youth service strategies for this summer, the WIA funds available to meet WIA requirements including the 30 percent focus on out-of-school youth (OSY) during the remainder of the Program Year are reduced. The 30 percent WIA OSY youth requirement is not waived in the transition process from JTPA to WIA, and WIA performance may be impacted. Locals may be at risk of not meeting overall performance because the balance of funds will be focused on 30 percent OSY. WIA funds spent on the summer youth activities - even though the participants are held to JTPA standards - are included in the 30 percent OSY calculation.

Another consideration here is the new definition under WIA of OSY. As opposed to JTPA, a youth participant who is attending alternative school at time of enrollment in WIA is not an OSY though alternative schools are clearly a service strategy available for serving WIA out-of-school youth. In the transition, JTPA participants who were counted as OSY will continue to count as OSY for JTPA or WIA reporting purposes. Yet, Local Boards will not meet the WIA OSY requirement by serving at-risk youth who were in alternative schools at the time of enrollment in JTPA or WIA, and the WIA funds used to support the OSY activity for a participant that begins and ends under JTPA, impacts the total amount of money available to serve youth."

Please contact Joan Crigger of the Conference staff for questions or further information at (202) 861-6726.

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