Issue: Employment and Training Assistance

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Issue Summary

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.

What Would Reagan Do?

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]

Issue History

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


The Welfare Reform Action Fund's (WRAF) sister organization — the 501(c)(3) Carleson Center for Welfare Reform (CCWR) — identified numerous federal Employment and Training programs for the needy that combined would create a consolidated block grant to the states to provide employment and training services to targeted low-income populations.7

While the CFDA lists employment and training programs for which the federal government provides grants and awards to state and local governments and private nonprofit entities, it does not list many other federal programs in which the federal government itself provides employment and training services by contracting directly with private entities and firms. While such directly contracted services were therefore not part of the CCWR's review or in the block grant as proposed, the CCWR report nevertheless recommends that such programs should be independently considered for inclusion in any Employment and Training block grant that might be considered by Congress.

Nonetheless, the block grant as recommended by the CCWR report combines 19 employment and training programs that cost the federal government over $5.1 billion in FY2011 into a single block grant to the states. This does not include the federal government's costs to administer the programs.

An informed government policy to protect the nation's safety net should begin by reining in the welfare state through a time-tested approach — cutting spending on those who are NOT really in need. Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan approved a blueprint to end welfare dependency not just for the benefit of federal and state taxpayers, but for the long-term benefit of welfare recipients themselves. The time was not right then. The time must be right now.

The CCWR report proposes an achievable, common-sense plan — and model legislation to enact it — to end the hopeless bureaucratic overlap and fiscal abuse plaguing our nation's welfare spending; assure that limited taxpayer funding is directed to benefit the truly needy; and permanently reduce the size and influence of the federal welfare bureaucracy. The WRAF is working to urge Congress to approve this and the CCWR report's recommendations to block grant 6 other categories of welfare programs to the states as well.



Program Name



Change from 2008-2011


Career and Technical Education – Basic Grants to States





WIA Dislocated Worker Formula Grants





WIA Youth Activities





WIA Adult Program





Senior Community Service Employment Program





Workforce Investment Act (WIA) National Emergency Grants





Job Access – Reverse Commute










Reintegration of Ex-Offenders





National Farmworker Jobs Program





H-1B Job Training Grants





Adult Education -- National Leadership Activities





Incentive Grants – WIA Section 503





Career and Technical Education – National Programs





WIA Dislocated Workers





Farmworker Training Grant Program





Program of Competitive Grants for Worker Training and Placement in High Growth and Emerging Industry Sectors





Workforce Innovation Fund





Grants to States for Workplace and Community Transition Training for Incarcerated Individuals








  1. GAO-11-92, Multiple Employment and Training Programs: Providing Information on Colocating Services and Consolidating Administrative Structures Could Promote Efficiencies (Washington, DC: Government Accountability Office, January 2011), Summary.
  2. GAO-11-318SP, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue (Washington, DC: Government Accountability Office, March 2011), p. 140.
  3. Ibid, p. 140-141.
  4. Ibid, p. 141.
  5. Workforce Investment Act; Final Rule; Employment and Training Administration; 20 CFR Part 652k Part 660 et al;
  6. GAO-11-318SP, p. 140.
  7. "Securing the Safety Net," a report by The Carleson Center for Welfare Reform (January, 2013).