GAO Warns of WIOA Performance Reporting Challenges

by Christina Pena
September 24, 2015

A new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: Performance Reporting and Related Challenges,” provides general information on how the federal government has been collecting data from the states to report on Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, and highlights the areas where states are expected to have difficulties in meeting WIOA performance reporting requirements. The GAO did not describe individual state cases in this 43-page report

Based upon its interim review, the GAO flagged problems that could affect reporting, including data consistency, validation, and sharing – problems that have existed under WIA, and could continue or be exacerbated under WIOA. The GAO report did not, however, see personally identifiable information exposure or loss as a significant threat in the process of meeting these requirements.

Establishing data sharing agreements and making data system modifications were highlighted as two of the major challenges for states, with overall workload and lack of resources as posing recurring problems:

  • Establishing data sharing agreements - Unlike WIA, WIOA will require all core programs to use quarterly wage record data for reporting, while remaining compliant with state law. This change could pose problems for education programs that are not parties to data sharing agreements. Vocational Rehabilitation reporting was cited as a key example. The GAO pointed to the lack of inter-agency relationships within states, and some state privacy laws, as hurdles that will need to be overcome. Without naming particular states, the GAO suggested that some states would need to change their laws to allow the creation of appropriate data sharing agreements.
     
  • Making data system modifications - Lack of staff and resources were cited by agency officials as factors that may make it harder for states to make the necessary changes to their systems to meet performance reporting requirements. The GAO also noted, “In particular, states may have limited lead time to modify data systems because they will likely wait for federal regulations to be finalized, according to most of the federal officials and representatives of state agencies we interviewed.” (p. 33) States must meet WIOA performance reporting requirements by July 2016.

The GAO flagged federal agency guidance as being crucial to this process, including the release of proposed regulations and comment periods offered by the Departments of Labor and Education. The GAO will conduct a final review, which will include an examination of databases and exchanges in certain states, an analysis of opportunities for improving data quality, and an update on the protection of personal data. GAO plans to release the results of this review in 2016.