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Stipend Use, Shifting Client Group in J.T.P.A. Studied

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Washington--The government's new job-training program is serving a "more advantaged, more motivated" clientele than did the previous federal effort, but the diminished amount of funding available for stipends is not the cause, concludes a draft report by the General Accounting Office.

Nonetheless, responses from job-training officials surveyed for the gao study presented a complicated picture of how the Job Training Partnership Act is being implemented.

A majority of those questioned said they were having difficulty meeting some of the goals of the federal program, such as serving the most disadvantaged unemployed workers, but most also said they were not spending all the stipend money available to them under the act.

The draft of the report did not analyze the apparently contradictory survey findings, but several observers close to the history and development of the jtpa said they may stem from the act's performance requirements for local programs, which were not a feature of the previous federal job-training act.

Other recent reports on the jtpa have charged that the limit on the amount of money that can be paid to program participants is a prime factor forcing local officials to focus on more "job-ready" applicants, rather than those most economically disadvantaged.

On the basis of its nationwide survey, however, the gao, the investigative arm of the Congress, suggests that the shift toward job-ready participants may be more closely related to the way local programs are administered than to financial limitations.

But Gary Walker, a consultant who has written a series of reports on the training program, said last week that both factors are involved. The jtpa's performance standards, which require programs to have a job-placement rate of at least 41 percent and a "positive termination" rate of at least 82 percent, force local officials to search for and enroll the youths most likely to succeed, Mr. Walker said.

But if stipend money were more readily available, he added, more youths might participate. "Most people who need the money right away aren't going to apply."

The gao report was requested by the House Subcommittee on Employment Affairs, which oversees federal labor issues.

Expected to be released next month, the analysis was developed from survey responses from 544 local jtpa programs--out of a total of 594--as well as from site visits to 11 areas in six states between June and September 1984. It examines the jtpa during its transition year from October 1983 to June 1984.

New Funding Arrangements

The jtpa replaced the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act in October 1983 to serve disadvantaged and dislocated workers. It has been allocated about $3.6 billion in each of the past two years; about half of that goes to Title IIA, the principal program for training disadvantaged workers, and about 20 percent of the Title IIA funding is allocated to young people between the ages of 16 and 21.

Under ceta, about 80 percent of the funds were spent on nontraining costs, including administration of the programs and stipends for participants.

Under the jtpa, the Congress limited the amount available for administration to 15 percent of total expenditures and set a combined limit of 30 percent for administration and participant stipends.

Participant Statistics

The gao study notes that the jtpa enrolled about the same percentage of women, minorities, handicapped, single parents, and recipients of public welfare as did ceta.

But about 55 percent of the local officials surveyed agreed that the jtpa participants were likely to be less economically disadvantaged than ceta participants. And 70 percent of the local officials said the jtpa participants were more highly motivated than those in ceta.

The study also found that the jtpa participants were more likely to be enrolled in on-the-job training and less likely to be enrolled in work-experience activities than those in the ceta program.

Negative Impact

About 53 percent of the respondents said the stipend limitations had a negative impact on their ability to meet the objectives of the jtpa, such as serving the more economically disadvantaged. About the same percentage said that as a result of the limitations, training programs were shorter than they should be, and other programs could not be offered.

However, the study itself maintains that the "factors that caused the changes remain unclear." It notes that because most local job programs did not spend all of their stipend funds, the shift in participants under the jtpa may be "due more to the way service-delivery areas implemented their programs than to the legislatively imposed limitation."

Stipends Not Spent

Although service\delivery areas--geographical jurisdictions of 200,000 or more residents--had at least 15 percent of their funds available for support costs, respondents to the gao survey spent much less than that, according to the report.

It also notes that while local programs could receive a waiver on their stipend limitations, only a few requested such a waiver.

On the average, the normal weekly payment was $34, the survey found; it did not determine the extent to which the payment satisfied existing need. Weekly payments ranged from $1.00, in two local programs, to $300 in another. In ceta, participants usually received the the hourly minimum wage.

About 63 percent of those questioned said they had not asked for fee waivers because they were able to meet participant-support needs within the limitations.

More than 80 percent of some 461 local officials responding to a question on stipends said they allocated less than the maximum allowed, spending an average of 7 percent of their total grant.

Although the report does not examine the reasons that states used so little of their stipend money, one Congressional aide attributed it to the fact that over a large number of the jtpa participants are on some sort of public assistance, and thus receive additional support.

Because of the limit on stipends, most officials said, they made greater use of alternative resources to provide support services. The study found that 95 percent of the local officials responding provided some type of assistance to participants either directly or through agreements--for child care or transportation, for example--with other state and local agencies at no cost.

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