New York state has more than 500 workforce development programs offered by nearly two dozen state agencies and public authorities, but there is no functioning governing body to coordinate planning, to make sure the needs of New Yorkers are met, and resources are used effectively, according to an audit of the Department of Labor (DOL) released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Workforce development is crucial to help New York recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the programs across the state lack leadership and coordination,” DiNapoli said. “As the lead agency in workforce development, the Department of Labor needs to pay closer attention to what is needed to better manage these programs and get our state back to work. Employment recovery in New York is lagging behind the rest of the country and these programs are critical for helping New Yorkers find well-paying jobs and businesses find qualified employees.”
Under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states must have a governance body and must align their Workforce Development (WFD) programs by developing a shared comprehensive understanding of WFD needs statewide. In New York, this governance body is the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB). DOL, along with 21 agencies and public authorities, 33 Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) and 95 One-Stop Career Centers, offers WFD programs and services to address current and emerging needs, such as training, support services, childcare and transportation assistance. The entities comprise New York’s workforce development system.
The SWIB was established to minimize the duplication of services, assist in creating workforce development strategy plans, establish the Local Workforce Development Areas, and develop formulas for the distribution of funds to local areas. However, DiNapoli’s auditors found the SWIB, which is supposed to include a variety of stakeholders, has been inactive for five years, last meeting in January 2017. A roster provided by DOL in September 2021 listed 40 members, but the term dates for 30 of the 40 members expired between February 2014 and August 2017.
The SWIB is also responsible for creating four-year plans to improve New York’s workforce development system, including strategies for effective outreach and improved access. These plans are required under WIOA, and modifications have to be submitted for federal approval. Late submissions can result in delays in federal funding. Due at least in part to the absence of a functioning SWIB, DOL’s most recent plan was submitted in March 2020 and has not yet been approved at the federal level. Officials declined to provide a copy of the plan and initially said they did not know why its approval was delayed. Later, in response to the audit’s preliminary findings, officials said it was on hold due to the lack of a functioning SWIB.
State legislation enacted in 2018 requires the department to maintain and annually update a publicly available online database of WFD funding programs (Catalogue of Funding) that provides information about program eligibility and funding, including tax credits available to eligible employers. DOL last updated the catalogue in August 2019.
Auditors developed a database of the department’s catalogue of funding information, identifying programs associated with specific population groups and service categories, and the agencies and authorities that offer them. This assessment allowed auditors to identify possible overlap, duplication, and fragmentation of the WFD programs and services offered in the state. The audit also found that New York lacks an integrated data system for case management and reporting of WFD programs and services.
DiNapoli’s audit identified transportation barriers, limited broadband availability, and the number of potential users per career center as potential barriers to accessing WFD programs and services. Twenty-four of the state’s rural counties have just one career center, and two counties – Greene and Hamilton – have none. In contrast, there are just two career centers each in Suffolk County and the Bronx to serve working age populations in excess of 900,000 each.
LWDBs must submit a plan to DOL every four years that addresses their plans to work with partners in the local WFD system, to unite programs and support services for job seekers and job creators. Of the 33 LWDB plans auditors reviewed, 17, covering 36 counties, cited public transportation concerns as inhibiting access to WFD opportunities and services. Nine plans, covering 17 counties, cited broadband availability or access concerns.
DiNapoli recommended DOL:
- Promptly request replacement for SWIB members no longer willing and/or able to serve to assist in reconstituting a functioning SWIB in line with WIOA requirements.
- Take appropriate action to obtain approval of the 2020 four-year Plan and successive Plans.
- As soon as is feasible, update the Catalogue of Funding to reflect current information about programs, eligibility, and funding; thereafter, update it on an annual basis.
- Develop an integrated WFD data system.
- Address actual and potential overlap, duplication, gaps, and/or fragmentation among WFD programs and services.
Department officials described the actions they are taking to address the recommendations. Their full response is included in the audit.
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