Rescue boats float on a flooded street as people are evacuated from rising floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston in August 2017.

Rescue boats float on a flooded street as people are evacuated from rising floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston in August 2017. David J. Phillip / AP file photo

Watchdog Finds ‘Minimal Oversight’ of Program to Help Workers Who Lose Their Jobs Following Disasters

IG proposes improvements based on a Labor Department agency’s response to 2017 hurricanes and wildfires.

A watchdog reported on Tuesday the Labor Department needs to improve its oversight of a program to help workers who lose their jobs as a result of disasters, to facilitate more efficient relief. 

The Labor Department inspector general issued a report on how the Employment and Training Administration managed its funds from the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act––following hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the wildfires in California in 2017––for its National Dislocated Worker Grants program. Under the program, the Employment and Training Administration gives out funds to states to reemploy those who have been laid off following disasters in temporary cleanup and recovery jobs and to make it easier for them to eventually find permanent work. 

“We found that ETA provided minimal oversight of its state grantees and needs to improve the administration of the [Dislocated Worker Grant] program to ensure grantees help local areas restore communities in a timely manner, out-of-work participants receive expeditious disaster relief assistance, a greater number of participants obtain employment as intended by the grants and disaster relief funds are maximized and properly used,” said the report. 

The IG reviewed the award process for all eight of the grantees (California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Puerto Rico, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands); funds claimed from October 1, 2017, to May 25, 2019; and performance data as of December 31, 2019. Auditors also visited California, Florida and Puerto Rico. Out of the $135.6 million total approved in grant funds, $78.1 million was obligated. 

The IG found it took between 25 days and almost six months for cleanup-related grants and about three to 13 months for evacuee grants to be issued because the Employment and Training Administration didn’t give criteria or guidance on what services should begin after there is a disaster declaration. This hindered grantees’ ability to restore their areas and provide disaster relief employment, the IG said. 

Grantees also did not meet their performance goals, which the IG attributed to the Employment and Training Administration’s limited oversight as well as the states’ limited supervision of their sub-recipients. “Grantees only provided training services to about one-third of participants and only returned 39% of unemployed participants back to full-time employment. That percentage was below what was intended by the grants,” said the report. “Other performance outcomes were better but still didn’t reach the goal, including 85% of participants that were employed in temporary disaster relief assistance.” 

Among the other challenges, approximately $4.5 million of grantee obligations and costs were either not needed for disaster relief or didn’t have sufficient documentation. “The majority of that resulted from $2.5 million that Puerto Rico had obligated for mobile units to help with disaster outreach, but had not spent as of two years after the hurricanes,” the report stated. “We also identified $1,988,627 in questioned costs, consisting of $1,556,584 for costs that were not supported by adequate documentation and $432,043 that were not necessary for the wildfire and hurricane grants.” 

The IG made six recommendations to help the Employment and Training Administration prepare for future grant awards, which included establishing timelines for when disaster relief should be provided to those impacted; developing a strategy to work with state grantees to make sure that local areas are maximizing the use of their funds; evaluating how the agency monitors grantees, so they can better achieve performance goals; ensuring there is eligibility verification for grantees that have self-certification processes; and recovering the “questioned costs.” 

Employment and Training Administration officials said they mostly agreed with recommendations and are taking corrective action on them, but took issue with a few aspects of the report, such as the IG’s “characterization that minimal oversight of the states was provided.” The IG said that nothing in the agency’s response changed its report, however. 

While issued during the Biden administration, the report covered actions taken only during the Trump administration. 

President Trump tapped John Pallasch to lead the Employment and Training Administration in April 2018, but he wasn’t confirmed until July 2019, so there was a series of interim directors. For the first two years of the Trump administration, “staffers across the [agency were] getting moved around causing at the very least confusion on who is in charge of what, and at the most a loss of experienced staff,” Bloomberg News reported in February 2019. “It [was] not just Pallasch’s vacancy that [was] causing concern.”

Susan LeVine, former Washington state Employment Security Department commissioner and ambassador to Switzerland under President Obama, was appointed to be principal duty assistant secretary of Labor for employment and training on Monday, a Labor Department spokesperson told Government Executive, which means she is the de-facto head of the Employment and Training Administration. Nancy Rooney is still the career deputy assistant secretary. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.