The links below take you to that section of the frequently asked questions.
- All Grants – Paid Leave/Stipends
- All Grants – Transitioning Services
- All Grants – Administrative Flexibilities
- WIOA General
- WIOA General – American Job Centers
- Rapid Response
- Layoff Aversion
- WIOA Dislocated Worker Program
- National Dislocated Worker Grants
- Performance – WIOA
- Performance – All
- Trade Act, or Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), Programs
- Indian and Native American Program (INAP)
- Wagner-Peyser Act Monitor Advocate System
- National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP)
- Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
- American Apprenticeship Initiative
- Foreign Labor Certification Activities of State Workforce Agencies
All Grants – Leave and Stipends
Q: Are the costs of a grantee’s leave policy that provides paid leave to employees (including part-time employees and employees of subrecipients) when their work hours have been reduced due to COVID-19 closures or disruptions (e.g., if a grantee’s offices are shut down due to COVID-19) allowable costs of the Federal grant?
Response: Yes. 2 CFR 200.431(b) states that a leave policy is allowable if is an established, written policy that applies equitably and consistently to all staff regardless of employee class, and if it is reasonable. However, a state or grantee may only charge an employee’s paid-time-off to the Federal grant if it is the state’s/grantee’s overarching policy to pay all employees in this situation, regardless of the funding source used to cover such an expense. If a grantee amends its existing leave policy or develops a new emergency leave policy applicable to all employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, costs incurred under that policy would be allowable provided they meet the requirements in 2 CFR 200.431(b). For any change in policy that impacts the budget, competitive or discretionary grantees may need to submit a budget realignment request. If the change in policy impacts an approved indirect cost rate or cost allocation plan, the grantee must request a change or obtain an extension from its federal cost negotiator. Grant recipients and subrecipients must maintain appropriate records and cost documentation as required by 2 CFR 200.302 - Financial management and 2 CFR 200.333 - Retention requirement of records to substantiate the charging of any salaries and other project activities costs related to interruption of operations or services. Salary and Bonus limitations (Pursuant to P.L. 115-141, Division H, Title I, Section 105) remain in effect. At this time, no additional funds will be provided by ETA to cover these expenses. Should the need for such leave be longer than 60 days, ETA will provide additional guidance on these paid leave policies.
Q: Can WIOA formula and competitive grants continue to pay wages or stipends if program participants were actively being served prior to the pandemic or if they were in a work experience placement (e.g., subsidized employment, OJT, paid internship) which has been recently cancelled due to COVID-19?
Response: If the program participant’s time commitment, stipend structure, and/or other academic or work terms were established prior to the national health emergency declaration, grantees should continue to pay the participant for the remainder of the established term.
Q: Can grantees who are interested in applying for a Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program loan use ETA grant funds to pay back the loan?
Response: No. A grant recipient or subrecipient should not use grant funds to repay the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. There should be no need to take out a PPP loan to cover grant payroll expenses because ETA grant funds can be used to cover salaries and fringe benefits and paid leave during this emergency. See the published FAQs located at https://www.workforcegps.org/resources/2020/03/18/23/35/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Resources. For further information on PPP, please see the interim final rule at https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/PPP--IFRN%20FINAL_0.pdf.
Q: During the pandemic, can grantees charge the grant for an employee's sick or family leave if such costs were originally to be allocated to the subrecipient contract.
Response: No. Any pandemic-related paid leave must be charged to the contract from which the employee is paid. If a grantee has a contract with a subrecipient and the employees of the subrecipient are paid sick leave or family leave, the cost must be billed and charged to the subrecipient contract.
All Grants – Allowable Activities in Transitioning Services
Q: Can grantees use funds to purchase cleaning supplies?
Response: Yes, to the extent that the supplies are used for the benefit of the grant program (e.g., in grantee spaces, or a proportionate share of shared spaces).
Q: Is it an allowable charge to a grant if an employee works on COVID-19 related functions (i.e., sanitizing the building, etc.) and not grant-related functions?
Response: Assisting in the cleaning and sanitizing of dedicated and common space that is used to house and serve program staff and participants is an allowable grant function.
Q: Can grant programs purchase food to participants seeking assistance?
Response: Generally, grant funds from the Employment and Training Administration cannot be used to provide food assistance to individuals in the grantee’s community. On a limited basis and in certain situations, food at a reasonable cost may be provided to youth-serving program participants as a supportive service. Food may be provided to eligible youth when it will assist or enable the participant to participate in allowable youth program activities funded through one or more of our programs and to reach his/her employment and training goals, thereby achieving the program’s overall performance goals. The focus of the programs is to train youth, and the use of grant funds for food should be limited to reasonable and necessary purchases that are coordinated with other community, state, or federal services that provide food for low-income individuals.
Q: How can grantees adjust services to maintain the safety of staff and customers?
Response: Grantees should adhere to state and local government directives on health and safety, even when this means closing in-person services. Grantees can adapt their services to provide services online. Grantees that maintain limited in-person services should review OSHA guidance on healthy and safe workplaces, available at www.dol.gov/coronavirus.
Q: Can grantees pay for mass transportation costs, e.g., subway or bus, for participants?
Response: To the extent that the costs are linked to participants and their service strategy, they are allowable. Competitive grantees can refer to their Funding Opportunity Announcement and grant agreements for allowable costs. WIOA formula grantees can refer to the Supportive Services desk reference.
Q: For grants that pay participants stipends during training, can grantees pay stipends to participants for distance learning or other remote activities?
Response: Yes, stipends directly tied to program services, even those conducted remotely, are allowable if such stipends were permitted under the grant Statement of Work.
Q: Can grants purchase food that can be made available to individuals seeking assistance?
Response: ETA grant funds cannot be used to provide general food assistance to individuals in the community, regardless of the age of the individual. Employment and training programs are not intended as and cannot be converted to income or food support programs. At times, certain supportive services and needs related payments may be issued to a participant, in general, to allow them to participate in training and employment services that will allow more of their personal funds to be used to cover food purchases. Written policies and procedures must be in place that outline the factors or criteria that will be considered by the case manager or staff person to ensure fair and equitable distribution of such expenses to participants is also reasonable, necessary, allowable, and allocable to the ETA grant award.
In programs specifically serving youth, on a limited basis and in certain situations ETA grant funds may be used on food for youth program participants as a supportive service. Food may be provided to eligible youth when it will assist or enable the participant to participate in allowable youth program activities and reach his/her employment and training goals. The focus of the programs is to train youth and the use of grant funds for food should be limited to reasonable and necessary purchases and must be coordinated with other community, state, or Federal services that provide food for low-income individuals.
Q: If grantees, subrecipients, or service providers have to rely on their own personal cell phones and computers to administer services from home, would these expenses be an allowable cost? If so, how should grantees document these types of costs?
Response: The additional cost of data or cellular service incurred by the employee or staff person may be charged to the program. Documentation must be retained to show how such costs were determined and paid for and are in excess of their personal monthly charges. A written policy must be in place to ensure consistency in application among employees and programs. The policy should also address the safeguarding and protection of personally identifiable information. Such costs are expected to be temporary and only for the time of this emergency.
Q: Some grantees are experiencing termination costs (e.g., meetings or flights canceled) due to the health concerns related to COVID-19. Descriptions of termination costs in the Uniform Guidance generally deal with terminating grants and leases, which generally are allowable with conditions. But, are cancellation costs associated with the virus an allowable cost?
Response: Recipients who incur costs related to the cancellation of events, travel, or other activities necessary and reasonable for the performance of the award, or the pausing and restarting of grant-funded activities due to the COVID-19 public health emergency may charge these costs to their award without regard to 2 CFR 200.403, Factors affecting allowability of costs, 2 CFR 200.404, Reasonable costs, and 2 CFR 200.405, Allocable costs. Any future credits from cancellations must be applied to the grant or Federal funding source used to make the initial purchase. It is a good business practice to examine the terms and conditions of any future or new contract to ensure that termination or cancellations due to natural or federally declared disasters are kept to a minimum. This is effective from March 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020. ETA will further evaluate at that time.
Q: Should states or local areas suspend all youth and adult work experience during this crisis, or determine the best course of action depending on the youth/adult and employer situations?
Response: States and local areas should follow CDC and state and local government guidance in making determinations related to whether youth and adults should still be participating on work experiences, and should consider the environment in which the work is being conducted, and the chance for virus transmission. ETA understands that many activities including work experience may be suspended or impacted.
Q: Can grantees shift to virtual services, such as e-learning, phone calls, and virtual meetings?
Response: ETA programs provide flexibility to grantees in how they provide services. Grantees can choose the best method of continuing to deliver program services. Security of customer data and its transition as well as ease of customer access must be considered.
Q: Can grantees purchase laptops and tablets for participants so they can continue their education and training from home. Are laptops and tablets equipment? Do grantees need prior approval from the grant officer to purchase these?
Response: Yes, grant funds can be used to purchase supplies or equipment to assist in providing program services and training in a virtual setting during this time. The definition of equipment is found at 2 CFR 200.33. The definition of supplies is found at 2 CFR 200.94. Laptops and tablets usually fall within the definition of supplies, which do not need grant officer approval. The Uniform Guidance at 2 CFR 200.302 and § 200.303 requires that all funds, property, and other assets be safeguarded against loss from unauthorized use or disposition. The grant recipient and its service providers must have sufficient internal controls and policies in place to account for all assets. Grant recipients should use safety precautions to protect personally identifiable information and use sound fiscal prudence to maximize the value of taxpayer dollars spent. Grantees should weigh the length of time remaining in the period of performance against the reasonable benefit to the program for purchases of new supplies or equipment.
Q: Can ETA grant funds be used to pay for broadband internet services and support distance learning?
Response: WIOA funds can be used to pay for devices and broadband internet service that will allow a participant to create or maintain a wireless connection for distance learning, searching for jobs, and other employment and training services where such services are already allowable. Grant recipients are expected to use sound fiscal prudence to maximize value for each taxpayer dollar spent by reaching as many participants as possible while also considering the cost and length of time remaining in the period of performance. Please note that ETA grant funds cannot be used to enhance or build the infrastructure needed to support local broadband internet service.
Q: Is there flexibility to offer academic courses and/or training in a distance learning platform?
Response: ETA programs provide flexibility to grantees in how they provide services. Grantees can choose the best method of continuing to deliver program services. The security of customer data and its transmission, as well as ease of customer access, must be considered.
All Grants – Administrative Flexibilities
Q: Can grantees get extensions to submit closeout packages to ETA?
Response: Requests for extensions must be submitted to the Closeout Unit within 30 days of the expiration of the grant award.
Q: Will grantees get extensions to file Single Audits?
Response: Grantees may have an extension of six months beyond the normal due date if they did not file their single audits with the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as of March 19, 2020. The single audits that have fiscal year-ends through June 30, 2020, may also delay the completion and submission of the Single Audit reporting package, as required under Subpart F of 2 CFR 200.501-Audit Requirements, to six months beyond the normal due date. No further action by awarding agencies (such as ETA) is required to enact these extensions. These extensions do not require individual recipients and subrecipients to seek approval for the extensions by the cognizant or oversight agency for audit; however, recipients and subrecipients should maintain documentation of the reason for the delayed filing. Recipients and subrecipients taking advantage of these extensions would still qualify as a "low-risk auditee" under the criteria of 2 CFR 200.520(a).
Q: May I get an extension to submit, update, or revise my negotiated indirect cost rate?
Response: ETA allows grant recipients to continue to use the currently approved indirect cost rates (i.e., predetermined, fixed, or provisional rates) to recover their indirect costs on Federal awards. A recipient’s request for an extension on the use of the current rates for one additional year without submission of an indirect cost proposal must be submitted within 90 days before the expiration. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Cost & Price Determination will also approve grant recipients requests for an extension of the indirect cost rate proposal submission to finalize the current rates and establish future rates.
Q: Can programs enroll new participants using electronic or digital signatures?
Response: Yes. The Uniform Guidance at 2 CFR 200.335 allows the use of digital or electronic means to collect, transmit, and store information.
Q: Can states or grantees waive procurement requirements?
Response: In accordance with OMB Memorandum M-20-17, grantees may conduct procurements under the public emergency provision (2 CFR 200.320(f)(2)). Grantees can waive the procurement requirements contained in 2 CFR 200.319(b) regarding geographical preferences and 2 CFR 200.321 regarding contracting with small and minority businesses, women's business enterprises, and labor surplus area firms. Grant recipients are expected to use sound fiscal prudence to maximize value for each taxpayer dollar spent. These exceptions are time limited and will be reassessed by ETA within 90 days of the OMB Memo M-20-17 dated March 19, 2020, that is, by mid-June.
Q: Can a state that has imposed additional requirements in ETA programs (e.g., performance, spending thresholds, services, etc.) relax requirements for those provisions?
Response: Any state with additional requirements that go beyond what is expressly required by ETA can research and pursue waiving or eliminating those requirements in accordance with state law and policy.
Q: Can grantees repurpose grant funds to offset additional expenses related to COVID-19 such as increased paid time off or overtime for staff?
Response: At this time, grantees cannot pay overtime in addition to paid time off to the same individual. For grantees considering paying overtime, agencies must have a written approved policy on overtime that outlines the conditions and criteria to authorize, approve, and earn overtime during this time. All salaries and fringe benefits must be within the Salary and Bonus limitations (P.L. 115-141, Division H, Title I, Section 105; P.L. 115-245, Division B, Title I, Section 105; and P.L. 116-94, Division A, Title I, Section 105). Grant recipients must maintain appropriate records and cost documentation as required by 2 CFR 200.302 - Financial management and 2 CFR 200.333 - Retention requirement of records to substantiate the charging of any salaries and other project activities costs related to the interruption of operations or services. Grant recipients should not place their staff in danger or a hazardous setting.
Q: Will ETA provide grantees with cash advances to supplemental grant funding or new grant awards because services will decrease, yet grantees will need the additional funding for paid time off?
Response: With the exception of additional funds for Dislocated Worker Grants and provisions to increase administrative cost limits for WIOA local workforce investment areas and Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) grantees, Congress has not appropriated supplemental funds for grantees. Therefore, ETA does not expect to release additional or supplemental funds to grant recipients that may incur pandemic related expenses. Such costs must be recorded and documented.
Q: Can grantees pay subgrantees—such as the WIOA Youth provider to a state—for monthly expenses, such as salaries, utilities, even while the program is temporarily closed?
Response: Grantees, where possible, may continue to provide services remotely or virtually. Under existing law and the Uniform Guidance, grantees may continue to charge salaries and benefits to currently active Federal awards consistent with the recipients’ policy of paying salaries (under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances) from all funding sources, Federal and non-Federal. Grant recipients may charge costs to the Federal award necessary to resume activities supported by the award, consistent with applicable Federal cost principles and the benefit to the project. Grant recipients must maintain appropriate records and cost documentation as required by 2 CFR 200.302 - Financial management and 2 CFR 200.333 - Retention requirement of records to substantiate the charging of any salaries and other project activities costs related to the interruption of operations or services. Salary and Bonus limitations should not be waived and remain in effect. Recipients must maintain appropriate records and documentation to support the charges against the Federal awards.
Q: Since grant funds for a competitive grant that were projected for students and participants will now not be fully used, can we make advanced purchases of supplies or use the money for sustainability purposes?
Response: No. Grant funds cannot be used for extra or advanced supplies or sustainability purposes. Grantees should already have existing plans to sustain the program after the grant has ended, which should be described in its Statement of Work.
Q: Can grant recipients continue to manage fiscal monitoring of sub-recipients remotely?
Response: Monitoring and oversight can take many forms and may include remote or desk monitoring. The transmission of PII data may be done through encrypted email or cloud services, with the appropriate protections to prevent inappropriate disclosure.
Q: If services are disrupted for a few weeks, will grantees be able to extend the period of performance so we can complete all planned grant activities?
Response: For competitive discretionary grants, ETA understands some grant functions might need to be suspended for health and safety reasons. ETA will consider period of performance extensions. Please contact your Federal Project Officer to request such an extension if your grant ends within the next quarter. Include details about how and why COVID-19 disruptions impact the ability of the grant to finish timely. Otherwise, grantees may wait until they resume normal submit period of performance extension requests when they return to normal operations.
Q: Will ETA extend the time to file required performance and financial reports for the quarter ending March 31, normally due May 15?
Response: ETA will allow grantees/recipients to delay submission of financial, performance, and other reports for up to three months beyond the normal due date. Grantees will be allowed to continue to draw down Federal funds without the expected submission of these reports. Grantees should communicate with their Federal Project Officers regarding an extension. These reports must be submitted by the end of the postponed period.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – General
Q: Can grantees use "presumptive eligibility" based on self-attestation for programs?
Response: There are multiple forms of acceptable source documentation for WIOA eligibility. Self-attestation may be used for a number of eligibility criteria as noted in ETA program and performance guidance; however, it should not be used as a first resort. Local areas and grantees should attempt to collect other source documentation demonstrating eligibility when possible. During this time where COVID-19 is impacting programs’ ability to physically collect documentation, documentation may be accepted verbally as long as it is clearly documented in the case file.
Q: How can state workforce agencies or local areas use incumbent worker training (IWT) to assist businesses and workers impacted by the COVID-19 emergency?
Response: IWT can be used in several ways to help ameliorate the impacts of COVID-19 by averting layoffs and upskilling workers. For example, grantees can use IWT to train workers for new roles that have arisen due to the COVID-19 emergency or to train workers on technologies that enable them to do work remotely that otherwise would be done in an office. Under WIOA title I, IWT may be funded locally, using statewide funds, or through Rapid Response funds.
TEGL 19-16, Section 13 sets forth the allowable uses of incumbent worker training funds, including layoff aversion and/or to assist individuals to acquire the skills necessary to retain their employment or advance in their careers. WIOA statewide activities funds from the Governor’s reserve may be used to provide incumbent worker training to achieve these program goals, and rapid response may be used if incumbent worker training is related to layoff aversion strategy or activity.
Q: Can states or local areas use WIOA On-The-Job-Training and Work Experience to place participants in a for-profit factory manufacturing respirators or face masks to help the factory increase production to meet the COVID-driven demand?
Response: On-The-Job-Training (OJT) and Work Experience are allowable services in this scenario, provided the individual meets the eligibility definition for a participant. Work Experience is an allowable service in all three WIOA title I programs, and for participants in the WIOA youth program, work experiences are one of the 14 program elements offered and may take place in the private for-profit sector, nonprofit sector, or public sector.
In the case of OJT for the Adult or Dislocated Worker programs, the individual must meet the additional requirements for placing an individual into training. As a reminder, individual adults and dislocated workers can be placed into training services if the American Job Center staff, including partner programs’ staff, determines after conducting an interview, an evaluation, or assessment, and career planning, that the individual:
- Is unlikely or unable to obtain or retain employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency or wages comparable to or higher than wages from previous employment through career services alone;
- Is in need of training services to obtain or retain employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency or wages comparable to or higher than wages from previous employment;
- Has the skills and qualifications to successfully participate in the selected program of training services;
- Is unable to obtain grant assistance from other sources to pay the costs of such training, including such sources as State-funded training funds or Federal Pell Grants established under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, or requires WIOA assistance in addition to other sources of grant assistance, including Federal Pell Grants (20 CFR 680.230 and WIOA Section 134(c)(3)(B) contain provisions relating to funding coordination);
- Is a member of a worker group covered under a petition filed for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and is awaiting a determination. If the petition is certified, the worker may then transition to TAA approved training. If the petition is denied, the worker will continue training under WIOA;
- Is determined eligible under the State and local priority system in effect for adults under WIOA Section 134(c)(3)(E) if training services are provided through the adult funding stream; and
- Selected a program of training services that are directly linked to the employment opportunities in the local area or the planning region, or in another area to which the individual is willing to commute or relocate.
Q: Does WIOA allow virtual and/or online training providers to be included on the state ETP list?
Response: There are no restrictions in WIOA statute, regulations, or guidance prohibiting states from approving virtual and online training programs from being included on their state list of eligible training providers. In fact, ETA’s ETP Performance reporting collection (ETA-9171) specifically allows states to report that a program format is “Online, E-Learning, or Distance Learning.” Many states have chosen to establish an agreement called the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA), which creates a shared, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education that states have leveraged to easily identify and add online education and training programs to their state ETP list.
Q: Can ETA allow increased flexibility in providing participants with supportive services and needs-related payments, including for individuals that are not enrolled in training?
Response: Under WIOA title I, supportive services are available to enable individuals to participate in career or training services, with the exception of needs-related payments, which can only be used to enable a participant to participate in training. WIOA supportive services may not be used for general income support purposes for individuals not participating in career or training services. However, current participants may need additional supportive services to continue participating in the program, and the program may be enrolling more individuals who need career, training services, or supportive services. States and local areas have flexibility in developing policies for supportive services, and these state and local policies can be updated to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Examples of allowable supportive services for WIOA title I participants include but are not limited to:
- Linkages to community services;
- Assistance with transportation;
- Assistance with child care and dependent care;
- Assistance with housing;
- Needs-related payments, as described below;
- Assistance with educational testing;
- Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities;
- Legal aid services;
- Referrals to health care;
- Assistance with uniforms or other appropriate work attire and work-related tools, including such items as eyeglasses, protective eye gear, and other essential safety equipment;
- Assistance with books, fees, school supplies, and other necessary items for students enrolled in postsecondary education classes; and
- Payments and fees for employment and training-related applications, tests, and certifications.
Needs-related payments are designed to provide a participant with financial assistance to enable them to participate in training services. ETA recognizes that many individuals in need of training services may not have the resources available to participate in the training. Needs-related payments can help individuals meet their non-training expenses and help them to complete the training successfully. The maximum level of needs-related payments must be established by the local workforce development board and must follow criteria in 20 CFR 680.970. A participant must be enrolled in a training program described in Section 134(c)(3) of WIOA to receive needs-related payments. Specific criteria for Adult and Dislocated Worker eligibility can be found in 20 CFR 680.940 and 20 CFR 680.950.
For more information, please visit the Supportive Service Desk Reference available here: https://ion.workforcegps.org/resources/2017/07/14/09/22/Supportive_Services_Desk_Reference.
Q: As many businesses adapt to a delivery model for many occupations, can WIOA funds pay for vehicle-related costs or vehicle insurance costs of participants?
Response: WIOA funds can be used to pay for reasonable participant supportive service costs such as vehicle-related expenses. The state or local area must maintain a written policy that outlines the criteria or factors that a case manager must consider in deciding the reasonableness and appropriateness of such supportive service. Grantees or subgrantees must maintain documentation to support the reason for payment such as valid driver’s license, valid insurance policy, coverage of the individual on that policy.
Q: How can grantee staff determine customer eligibility remotely/virtually for ETA-funded programs? Can staff view eligibility documentation (e.g., birth certificates, driver’s license, etc.) via Skype to determine eligibility and temporarily sign a self-attestation that they viewed the documents?
Response: Eligibility determination is a critical and non-waivable function of ETA programs, and grantees should keep documentation files used to determine eligibility. There are multiple mechanisms to review and save such documentation. For example, program staff can obtain and save a screenshot of the eligibility documentation to a particular participant file, if the grantee policy allows. Whatever mechanism is used, appropriate information security and privacy must be maintained. Grantees are ultimately responsible for ensuring the accuracy and validity of documents. Eligibility processes should include some type of validation. For more information, see TEGL 07-18, Guidance for Validating Jointly Required Performance Data Submitted under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Q: Can local workforce areas increase the 10% WIOA administrative cost limitation?
Response: Under Sec. 3515 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), local workforce areas can use up to 20% of the local allocations for programs funded under subtitle B of title I of WIOA for administrative costs. Please review the definition of administrative costs in the WIOA regulations at 20 CFR 683.215.
Q: Can ETA or a state extend the timelines for WIOA Local Plan submission, review and approval processes, including local performance negotiations?
Response: States have the authority to set deadlines related to the submission and/or extension of local plans and local performance negotiations. According to TEGL 11-19, Negotiations and Sanctions Guidance for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Core Programs, September 30 is the deadline for the local negotiations: “The local board, the Chief Elected Official, and the Governor must negotiate and reach agreement on local levels of performance for two program years at a time, based on the state's negotiated levels of performance, no later than September 30 in each year in which state negotiations occur. The state must notify its DOL-ETA Regional Office that negotiations are complete.” ETA recognizes that due to the current shift to COVID-19 related priorities, some states and locals may not be able to meet that deadline. States may consider extending current local plans, and may adjust the time frame for negotiating local levels of performance. States planning these changes should notify the ETA Regional Office of their plans; the notification should include the expected timeframe for negotiating local levels of performance.
Q: Our local area uses benchmark timeframes, and contract payments are tied to benchmark attainment. Can the U.S. Department of Labor extend these timeframes?
Response: Local areas that established performance-based contracts with sub-recipients can renegotiate benchmarks, following existing state and local policies.
Q: Is the waiver process changing for COVID-19? May states submit multiple waiver requests together in a shortened format? May a state use currently approved waivers since this is a national emergency declaration? How long could such waivers be effective?
Response: ETA is statutorily required to respond to a request for a WIOA waiver within 90 days and will make every effort to expedite requests related to COVID-19. As long as the requested waivers address requirements of WIOA Section 189(i)(3)(B) and 20 CFR 679.620, a state may use any format it chooses or use the waiver request tool available at www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/wioa/pdfs/847112-Waiver%20Request%20Tool.pdf. A state may consolidate portions of its request that apply to multiple waiver types; however, areas unique to an individual waiver, such as expected outcomes must be specific to each waiver. A state may use any approved waivers it already has, regardless of the national emergency declaration. The maximum length of approval for any waiver must be consistent with the approval period of a State WIOA Unified or Combined Plan. For PY 2020, the maximum approval is July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2022. The Department will evaluate each individual waiver request and may approve certain waivers for a shorter length of time.
Q: If services are disrupted for a few weeks, will WIOA formula grantees be able to extend the period of performance so we can complete all planned grant activities?
Response: Unfortunately, for WIOA PY 2017 grants ending June 30, 2020, due to the language in the WIOA statute 189(g)(2)(A), ETA cannot extend the period of performance for these grants.
Q: Are unemployment insurance (UI) payments, including additional UI payments of $600 per week, counted as income for eligibility of WIOA title I programs?
Response: Yes. Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 19-16, Guidance on Services provided through the Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Service (ES), as amended by title III of WIOA, and for Implementation of the WIOA Final Rules, provides guidance on UI payments in determining low-income status. Under WIOA, there is no exclusion of payments for unemployment compensation from the income calculations for determining if an individual is low-income.
For the WIOA Adult program, low-income status is part of the priority of service calculation but is not required for eligibility purposes. Being eligible for or in receipt of UI is one of the eligibility criteria for the WIOA Dislocated Worker program, and there are no income restrictions in this program. For the WIOA Youth program, low-income status is not required for all participants. It is required for most in-school youth and some out-of-school youth. More information is available in TEGL 21-16, Third Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Youth Formula Program Guidance.
Q: Is the CARES Act $1,200 payment included as income when considering WIOA enrollment?
Response: No. The $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus payments issued to individuals are considered tax credits and should not be considered in determining income level.
Q: The CARES Act increased the administrative cost limit for state WIOA title I formula programs. How should states report the increased administrative costs?
Response: The Section 3515 of the CARES Act increased the administrative cost limit for state WIOA title I formula programs to 20% of the total amount allocated to a local area, if the portion of the total amount that exceeds 10% of the total amount is used to respond to a qualifying emergency, that is, related to COVID-19. States can continue to report administrative costs in the established financial reporting form (ETA-9130). States can enter administrative costs for WIOA grantees on line 10F of that form. Because the CARES Act administrative cost limit increase is only applicable to costs associated with COVID-19 and not the entire grant amount, grantees should list the dollar amount and percentage of the grant spent on administrative costs associated with responding to COVID-19 in the Remark field, section 12. Additionally, all COVID-19 related expenses should also be included in 10e Total Federal Share of Expenditures and reported in the Remarks section. See https://www.doleta.gov/grants/financial_reporting.cfm.
Please note that many costs associated with responding to COVID-19 may be program costs, and thus not subject to the administrative cost limit. The WIOA regulations at 20 CFR 683.215 define administrative costs.
WIOA General – American Job Centers
Q: Since the President has declared a National Emergency, does this mean states are mandated to close the American Job Centers (AJC) if they are open?
Response: No. The operation status of American Job Centers (AJC) is a state decision. However, ETA strongly encourages states to ensure critical services are provided through alternative means such as conference calls, electronic referrals, and video conferencing. Several states are adapting their services to continue to operate virtually.
Q: If we are closing our AJC, should we inform anyone?
Response: Yes, please inform your Regional Office of AJC or State Workforce Agency (SWA) closures. ETA will use this information to update the Service Locator website (www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/AmericanJobCenters/find-american-job-centers.aspx), and to update information disseminated by the toll-free help line.
Q: In states lifting stay-at-home orders, must states meet certain ETA requirements in order to reopen American Job Centers?
Response: As was true as states implemented stay-at-home orders, there are no ETA-specific requirements for reopening American Job Centers (AJCs). The Department of Labor has published guidance on safe workplaces at https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus. CDC information on workplaces and gathering places is at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Rapid Response
Q: What is the role of Rapid Response during a disaster? WIOA regulations at section 682.330(f) require “the provision of emergency assistance adapted to the particular layoff or disaster.” Does this give state workforce agencies a way to provide services outside the traditional rapid response services?
Response: Rapid Response provides valuable services during economic transition caused by economic events or by natural or other disasters or emergency events. The regulations at 20 CFR 682.302(c) require Rapid Response services to be delivered in cases of a “mass job dislocation resulting from a natural or other disaster.” When such “mass dislocation” occurs, the regulations require “the provision of emergency assistance adapted to the particular layoff or disaster.” (20 CFR 682.330(f)). Though states must provide this emergency assistance, how it is carried out is left to the discretion of the state and can be determined by need.
The Rapid Response regulations at 20 CFR 682.340(a) provide significant flexibility to states to address situations with responses that were not foreseen by the regulations. This subsection reads as follows: “in order to conduct layoff aversion activities, or to prepare for and respond to dislocation events, in addition to the activities required under §682.330, a State or designated entity may devise rapid response strategies or conduct activities that are intended to minimize the negative impacts of dislocation on workers, businesses, and communities and ensure rapid reemployment for workers affected by layoffs.” This language provides substantial latitude to states or designated entities to carry out activities, so long as those activities are not otherwise prohibited under WIOA. ETA recommends that states develop policies that promote creative and innovative approaches, and that states document how the specific chosen activities aid in achieving the goal of Rapid Response (preventing or minimizing the duration of unemployment).
Further, 20 CFR 682.340(b) reads as follows: “When circumstances allow, rapid response may provide guidance and/or financial assistance to establish community transition teams to assist the impacted community in organizing support for dislocated workers and in meeting the basic needs of their families, including heat, shelter, food, clothing and other necessities and services that are beyond the resources and ability of the one-stop delivery system to provide.”
While such community transition teams are not commonly used, economic transition situations that affect entire communities, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, may present opportunities to organize such teams to address the extraordinary impacts of the crisis. State Rapid Response teams have the flexibility to organize such teams. However, such activities should always ensure the safety and health of all team members and following the safety and health instructions of state or local leaders should be a priority.
Q: Should states continue to provide rapid response services for any layoff event impacting 50 or more employees in light of COVID-19?
Response: States should continue to provide Rapid Response information to affected employees. However, this information can be shared electronically, such as in webinars. States have flexibility to provide this information through virtual or other limited in-person means. States should consult CDC guidance and local government directives about large gatherings.
WIOA Layoff Aversion Activities
Q: Can ETA provide clarifications on the use of funds for layoff aversion?
Response: Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 19-16 contains information on the use of Dislocated Worker (DW) funds for layoff aversion activities. Section 18 of the TEGL covers the Rapid Response program and how Rapid Response funds can and should be used to conduct layoff aversion activities. In addition, DW funds may be used for incumbent worker training (see section 13 of the TEGL). Additionally, states have the flexibility to utilize the Governor's Reserve to conduct layoff aversion activities.
Q: Can WIOA Adult funds be used to support layoff aversion activities?
Response: A state may use up to 25% of their Dislocated Worker allotment to provide Rapid Response activities, which can be used for layoff aversion activities. States may also leverage the Governor's Reserve to conduct additional rapid response activities. At the local level, Boards may use up to 20% of their combined adult and dislocated worker funds to provide incumbent worker training, which can be used for layoff aversion. ETA will consider waivers of this 20% cap as needed. Individuals involved in layoff aversion activities who meet program eligibility requirements may be served by the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. States may approve transfers of up to 100% of adult and dislocated worker funds.
Q: Can On-The-Job Training (OJT) funds be used for layoff aversion activities for current workers in the same company?
Response: Employed workers may be eligible for WIOA-funded OJT if the requirements of 20 CFR 680.710 are met. Additionally, rapid response or statewide WIOA funds may be used for layoff aversion activities including incumbent worker training. See TEGL 19-16, Section 18 for current flexibilities related to rapid response activities. States and local areas may also utilize incumbent worker training for layoff aversion activities as discussed in TEGL 19-16 Section 13.
WIOA Dislocated Worker Program
Q: Can ETA broaden the definition of a dislocated worker?
Response: Eligibility for the Dislocated Worker program is based on the definition in the WIOA statute at WIOA sec. 3(15), and eligibility is not waivable under WIOA. However, there is some flexibility in how this definition is applied and ETA encourages states and local areas to review their dislocated worker policies to ensure impacted individuals who may be eligible to receive the services they need.
If a state receives a National Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG), in addition to dislocated workers, the state can also serve workers laid off as a result of the disaster, including workers who are laid off because of a quarantine, because they miss work to care for a family member, or because they cannot come to their regular workplace due to social distancing requirements; this also includes workers laid off due to a business closure related to disruptions caused by the outbreak and the efforts to contain it. DWGs can also serve long-term unemployed individuals and self-employed individuals who become unemployed or underemployed as a result of a disaster. See TEGL 12-19 for more information.
Q: Is there flexibility on time requirements to consider a worker "dislocated" for the WIOA Dislocated Worker program or Dislocated Worker Grants?
Response: The definition of a dislocated worker is found at WIOA Sec. 3(15), and states and local areas develop policies and procedures for determining this eligibility that may include certain time requirements. ETA encourages states and local areas to review their policies and procedures during this pandemic to ensure dislocated workers can receive the services they need, while still meeting the requirements for eligibility.
Individuals who are laid off through no fault of their own may be eligible for the dislocated worker program. Additionally, individuals who received a general layoff notice may start receiving allowable career services from the Dislocated Worker program; and specifically in the case of a closure, the statute provides that states may provide early intervention services 180 days before the date of layoff. For more information on Dislocated Workers, please visit this Desk Reference available on WorkforceGPS.
WIOA National Dislocated Worker Grants (DWGs)
Q: Which entities are eligible to apply for a Disaster Recovery DWG under HHS Secretary Azar’s public health emergency declaration for COVID-19?
Response: Entities eligible to apply for Disaster Recovery DWGs are:
- Outlying areas
- Indian Tribal Governments as defined in the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 5122(6))
Secretary Azar’s declaration is “nationwide,” so any eligible entity in any location may apply.
Q: Are individuals or small businesses eligible for Dislocated Worker Grants for financial assistance related to COVID-19?
Response: States, outlying areas, and Indian Tribal Governments are eligible to apply for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address the workforce-related impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. These entities may serve eligible participants, which may include dislocated workers, workers who were laid off as a result of the disaster, self-employed individuals who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the disaster, and long-term unemployed individuals. For more information, please see the U.S. Department of Labor’s news release about the availability of Dislocated Worker Grants in response to COVID-19: www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200318.
Q: Can organizations that primarily serve low-wage workers receive Dislocated Worker Grants?
Response: States, outlying areas, and Indian Tribal Governments, as defined by the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5122(6), are eligible to apply for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address the workforce-related impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency. DWG grantees may work with public, private and nonprofit entities to carry out grant activities as appropriate. In addition, any layoffs caused by the virus’ spread, or other economic causes, could be eligible for Employment Recovery DWGs. In addition to states, outlying areas, and Indian tribal governments, eligible applicants for Economic Recovery DWGs also include entities determined appropriate or capable by the governor or Secretary of Labor, as specified in TEGL 12-19, Attachment I, pp. 8-9. WIOA limits Employment Recovery DWGs to providing only employment and training activities.
Q: Is the March 18, 2020, news release “U.S. Department of Labor Announces Availability of up to $100 Million In National Health Emergency Dislocated Worker Grants in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak” referring to a new competitive program, or referring to the National Dislocated Worker Grants authorized under WIOA and described in Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-19?
Response: The news release related dated March 18, 2020, announced that ETA had, at the time, $100 million available in the National Dislocated Worker Reserve, through which ETA could award Dislocated Worker Grants (DWGs) to states under established DWG application procedures. Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-19 describes guidance for all DWGs, including Disaster DWGs as well as Economic Recovery DWGs. Under this guidance, and pursuant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services public health emergency declaration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency declarations, all states, outlying areas, and Indian tribal entities as defined by the Stafford Act are eligible to apply for Disaster Recovery DWG funds or Employment Recovery DWG funds.
Q: Is there a $25 million limit for the COVID-19 disaster DWG funding?
Response: No, the $25 million award ceiling listed at Grants.gov is merely required numerical formatting for the site but does not apply to rolling solicitations for DWG funding.
Q: TEGL No. 12-19 says that Disaster Recovery DWGs abbreviated emergency applications must be submitted to ETA within 15 days of the declaration of a qualifying disaster declaration by FEMA or other Federal agency having jurisdiction over the disaster, and also says that there are exceptions to this timeline. Can states still submit abbreviated emergency applications, even though more than 15 days have passed?
Response: Yes. Normally TEGL No. 12-19 stipulates that applicants, citing appropriate justification, may request an exception to the 15-day submission requirement for an abbreviated emergency application following a federal disaster declaration. However, for COVID-19, this policy is not applicable. ETA is currently accepting emergency applications. Should circumstances change, ETA will provide further guidance via Grants.gov.
Q: What is the timeline for this Dislocated Worker Grant and the approval process?
Response: Applicants requesting DWG funding for the COVID-19 response should apply under TEGL No. 12-19. Applicants must submit form SF-424 (Request for Federal Assistance) and are encouraged to submit the required information via the suggested form, COVID-19 DWG – Project Summary for New Grant Request, attached to the posting found at www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=325616. The posting pertains to both Disaster Recovery and Employment Recovery DWGs.
The Department is working to make initial awards to eligible applicants as quickly as feasible. The DWG program requires the Department to make a decision to approve or disapprove a request within 45 working days of the receipt of an application meeting submission requirements. Awards are based on the availability of federal funding and are made at the Department’s discretion. The Department will issue a notice of award for successful applications no later than 10 days following the Secretary’s approval of the grant award.
Q: How does a state submit an emergency disaster recovery DWG application?
Response: With the public health declaration and the FEMA emergency declaration, all states, outlying areas and Indian tribal entities under the Stafford Act are eligible to apply for Disaster Recovery DWG funds. Applicants may request Disaster Recovery DWGs through an abbreviated emergency application to facilitate timely delivery of DWG assistance in response to a disaster event. These applications should be submitted to ETA within 15 days of the declaration of a qualifying disaster declaration by FEMA or other Federal agency having jurisdiction over the disaster. With appropriate justification, applicants may request an exception to this requirement, to allow for the submission of the emergency application within a reasonable timeframe after Day 15. Applicants also have the option to submit a full application containing a budget and plan, in lieu of an emergency application. Within 60 business days following an award of Disaster Recovery DWG funds requested via an emergency application, the grantee must modify the grant to provide a full application. This includes a budget, implementation plan, and a list of worksites where the disaster relief work will be performed. ETA may also require the grantee to submit additional information per the special conditions of the initial DWG award. For additional information on the DWG application process, go to the following link: www.doleta.gov/grants/application_howto.cfm.
Q: What activities must states carry out with Disaster Recovery DWGs under the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration?
Response: WIOA sec. 170(d) generally requires that Disaster Recovery DWGs include disaster-relief employment, with the option for grantees to also conduct employment and training activities (which may include career, training, and supportive services) for workers eligible to participate in Disaster DWG activities.
Q: Who can be served by Disaster Recovery DWGs under the coronavirus public health emergency declaration?
Response: Eligible Disaster DWG participants for both disaster-relief employment and employment and training activities are:
- Dislocated workers
- Workers laid-off as a result of the disaster, including:
- Workers who are laid off as a result of a quarantine, because they miss work to care for a family member, or because they cannot come to their regular workplace in order to follow socially distance requirements; and
- Workers laid off after a business closure related to disruptions caused by the outbreak and the efforts to contain it.
- Self-employed individuals unemployed or underemployed because of the disaster
- Long-term unemployed individuals
Q: For coronavirus, what types of disaster-relief employment are allowable?
Response: Under WIOA sec. 170, disaster-relief employment is limited to one of two categories: cleanup activities or humanitarian assistance. Under a public health emergency declaration such as the coronavirus, the types of disaster-relief employment allowable might include:
- Humanitarian assistance activities: WIOA’s allowance for disaster-relief employment to provide humanitarian assistance provides greatest range of potential disaster-relief employment activities for this public health emergency. Disaster-relief employees may assist in addressing many needs created by this public health emergency and the prolonged social isolation that is necessary to curb it, such as:
- Delivering medicine, food, or other supplies to older individuals and other individuals with respiratory conditions and other chronic medical disorders, with appropriate training and precautions. Coronavirus infection has been the most harmful to these populations, and there may be heavy need for such services that traditional volunteer organizations cannot support alone.
- Helping set up quarantine areas and providing assistance to quarantined individuals.
- Organizing and coordinating recovery, quarantine, or other related activities.
- Cleanup activities: WIOA requires that cleanup activities respond to the impacts of the disaster. While this activity is more typical for tornadoes, fires, and floods, some clean-up activities are relevant to coronavirus response. For instance, cleanup activities can include cleaning schools or sanitizing quarantine or treatment areas after their use. If research determines that coronavirus is more likely to spread under certain physical conditions, Disaster Recovery DWG funds could additionally be used to help remedy these conditions.
- By law, disaster-relief employment activities may only respond to or mitigate the impact of the disaster, which means grantees may not use DWG-funded disaster-relief employees to perform work aimed at preventing future disasters. We consider preventative measures—setting up quarantines, cleaning buildings—as mitigation activities because they avoid the further spread of the virus.
Q: In addition to Disaster Recovery DWGs, can states apply for Employment Recovery DWGs in response to layoffs caused by cancellations or shutdowns caused by coronavirus?
Response: Yes. Any layoffs caused by the virus’ spread, or other economic causes, could be eligible for Employment Recovery DWGs. WIOA limits Employment Recovery DWGs to providing only employment and training activities.
As already allowed under WIOA statute and regulations, states can apply for Employment Recovery DWGs if the following events occur:
- If there are 50 or more individuals laid off by one employer.
- If there are significant layoffs that significantly increase unemployment in a given community, even if the total layoffs are fewer than 50 individuals. For example, a cancellation of a large event may qualify because several different businesses such as hotels, caterers, area restaurants may lay off workers as a result of the event’s cancellation.
Q: Can a state, outlying area, or Indian Tribal Government include apprenticeship as part of a COVID-19 DWG, and provide funds to local colleges to assist the grantee with training for National Dislocated Worker Grants?
Response: Yes, work-based learning, including apprenticeships, are allowable training services under DWGs.
Q: Can we use funds in the COVID-19-related DWGs to support temporary jobs in IT to help individuals sheltering in place (or quarantined) to telework, do online training, or otherwise remain connected?
Response: Generally yes. ETA makes determinations of allowable humanitarian assistance under Disaster Recovery DWGs on a case-by-case basis. DWG guidance in Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 12-19 defines humanitarian assistance as follows: Humanitarian assistance generally includes actions designed to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity in the immediate aftermath of disasters. This assistance includes activities such as the provision of food, clothing, and shelter. The humanitarian assistance provided by disaster-relief workers must relate directly to the immediate response to the disaster situation named in the DWG application and the federal declaration. Applicants should consider this definition when proposing appropriate humanitarian assistance disaster-relief employment positions in their applications/modifications. While each disaster is different, ETA expects that most humanitarian assistance needs will resolve within 12 months of the disaster event. When providing a justification for extending employment, grantees must demonstrate that humanitarian assistance needs remain. DWGs can also support employment and training activities such as classroom and on-the-job training for IT jobs, in addition to disaster relief employment.
Q: Can a state use funds from a previous Disaster Recovery DWG to fund disaster relief employment for COVID-19 response activities (e.g., packing food for seniors)?
Response: Generally, Disaster Recovery DWGs may be expanded to include new disaster impacts if they fall within the same program year of the award of the initial disaster (see TEGL 12-19, page 8). If an existing Disaster Recovery DWG was awarded in a prior program year, appropriations law prohibits adding new emergencies to the existing Disaster Recovery DWG project. In such cases, ETA recommends that states requiring additional funding to address the COVID-19 public health emergency consider submitting new applications for DWG funds.
Q: Can Dislocated Worker Grant funds be utilized to purchase supplies needed for the humanitarian work/temporary work?
Response: TEGL No. 12-19 states that humanitarian assistance generally includes actions designed to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity in the immediate aftermath of disasters. For DWG awards, this includes actions such as the provision of food, clothing, and shelter. While grantees can purchase supplies for workers to perform these jobs, they cannot purchase the goods, such as food, that they will deliver to people.
Q: Can ETA clarify how the National Health Emergency (NHE) Opioid DWG funding might be used during this national COVID-19 emergency? Could a state amend its NHE Opioid grant to also address the COVID-19 emergency?
Response: No, a state, outlying area, or Indian Tribal Government may not use or divert funds from an existing NHE Opioid Grant to pay disaster-relief workers to address the cleanup or humanitarian needs of the COVID-19 public health emergency. ETA recommends that grantees requiring additional funding to address the COVID-19 public health emergency consider submitting new applications for DWG funds. For additional information on the DWG process, please visit the following link: www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=325616.
Q: Does the COVID-19 situation allow laid-off employees to obtain services offered under existing Dislocated Worker Grants? Is this an allowable scope of work change?
Response: WIOA and implementing regulations permit Disaster Recovery DWG funds previously awarded from the current program year to be repurposed for use by workers affected by COVID-19 in states directly affected by the disaster and in states where affected workers relocated (WIOA sec. 170(d)(4) and 20 CFR 687.200(b)(2)). The approval to repurpose such funds requires a grant modification request and determination by the Secretary or the Secretary’s designee. This flexibility does not apply to demonstration grants or DWGs awarded under specific appropriations. ETA can advise states if their DWG was awarded under a specific appropriation.
Q: Can a state, outlying area, or Indian Tribal Government amend its grant application or Statement of Work if changes/new projections have occurred since initial submission?
Response: An applicant for a Disaster Recovery DWG should work with their Federal Project Officer to discuss any amendments to its application prior to award.
Q: If the estimated cost-per-participant increases between the time the initial application is submitted and the full application is submitted, what should a state, outlying area, or Indian Tribal Government do?
Response: Emergency applications are designed to facilitate the timely delivery of DWG assistance in response to a disaster event. In many cases, emergency applications are submitted before complete information is available. The full application, which must be submitted within 60 business days of the initial award, should contain all relevant information that ETA expects will be available at that time including a complete budget, implementation plan, and a list of worksites where the disaster relief work will be performed. ETA may also require the grantee to submit additional information per the special conditions of the initial DWG award. Therefore, there may be changes to the information submitted in the emergency application, including anticipated cost-per-participant.
Q: If the same DWG disaster relief employment project operator is operating in multiple counties, is it okay to have different participant wages for the same occupation?
Response: TEGL 12-19 indicates that wages paid to temporary disaster-relief workers must be consistent with the wages of the supervising entity’s other employees—permanent or temporary—performing the same or similar work. This guidance also requires that wages must be at or above the relevant federal, state or local minimum wage. The guidance makes no distinction with regard to which locations participants are working. Rates of pay must be comparable to other employees of the worksite employer.
Q: How should a states, outlying area, or Indian Tribal Government determine the employer of record for disaster relief employment, under DWGs?
Response: Disaster Recovery DWGs authorize grantees to award funds to project operators to carry out the activities of the grant. Project operators generally contract with public, private, or nonprofit entities to serve as “worksite employers” for the participants engaged in disaster-relief employment. The grantee is not required to contract directly with worksite employers. The project operator is authorized to carry out employment and training activities as appropriate to the needs of the grant. If the project operator is a local Workforce Development Board, for example, they may provide employment and training services through an American Job Center or another mechanism as appropriate.
Q: Can ETA release the full amount approved for DWG awards?
Response: With the public health declaration and the FEMA emergency declaration, all states, outlying areas and Indian tribal entities are eligible to apply for Disaster Recovery DWG funds. Applicants may request Disaster Recovery DWGs through an abbreviated emergency application to facilitate timely delivery of DWG assistance in response to a disaster event. These applications should be submitted to ETA within 15 days of the declaration of a qualifying disaster declaration. With appropriate justification, applicants may request an exception to this requirement, to allow for the submission of the emergency application within a reasonable timeframe after day 15. Applicants also have the option to submit a full application containing a budget and plan, in lieu of an emergency application. Within 60 business days following an award of Disaster Recovery DWG funds requested via an emergency application, the grantee must modify the grant to provide a full application. This includes a budget, implementation plan, and a list of worksites where the disaster relief work will be performed. ETA may also require the grantee to submit additional information per the special conditions of the initial DWG award. For additional information on the DWG application process, go to the following link: www.doleta.gov/grants/application_howto.cfm.
Q: Can states transfer funds from the WIOA Youth program to the WIOA Dislocated Worker program?
Response: Under current law, states may not transfer funds from the WIOA Youth program, but may transfer funds between the WIOA Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. Such transfers are within the WIOA waiver authority under Section 189. ETA will consider any waiver that a state proposes, and evaluates each waiver on a case-by-case basis according to the criteria specified in statute and listed at www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wioa/waivers. States may request waivers for transfers from the Youth program or for any other provisions. However, states should be ready to describe how quality services will still be provided to out-of-school youth.
Q. Some states pay a project operator when implementing disaster relief employment under a Dislocated Worker Grant. Are the businesses that only hire temporary workers responsible for unemployment compensation charges at the end of their employment?
Response: It depends on each state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws. State UI laws generally indicate which employers are required to pay relevant UI taxes. Dislocated Worker Grant funds may be used to pay required taxes; however, the grant may not be used to pay penalties for failure to provide unemployment insurance coverage where required by law.
Q: Can a state sub-award COVID-19 Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funds to local workforce areas through formal contracts, or through a formula based on the amount each local workforce development area has requested?
Response: Yes. Under the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200.330), entities receiving these subawards would be considered subrecipients. In addition to the requirements of the Uniform Guidance (2 CFR Part 200), state grantees must follow their procurement procedures to provide funds to project operators in a timely and efficient manner to ensure that activities are carried out to meet the requirements of the grant and the DWG program. 2 CFR 200.302(a) requires states to expend and account for DWG funds in accordance with state laws and procedures for expending and accounting for the state’s own funds. 2 CFR 200.317 requires states to follow the same policies and procedures they use for procurements from their non-federal funds when procuring property and services under a federal award.
Q: Can Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funds be used to hire childcare workers to help front-line essential workers? If so, can such funds also be used for training and background checks?
Response: Training and Employment Guidance Letter 12-19, the operating instructions for the DWG program, states that allowable Disaster DWG disaster relief work “must relate directly to immediate response to the disaster situation named in the DWG application and the Federal declaration.” The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closing of schools, day care facilities, and other providers of child care. If a state determines that the provision of child care services is necessary to facilitate the immediate health and safety response to the emergency, child care for essential workers only may be allowable humanitarian assistance employment under a COVID-19 Disaster Recovery DWG. As with other disaster relief work, Disaster Recovery DWG funds may be used to provide necessary training and other activities to ensure that participants are able to effectively and safely carry out the work for which they have been hired. Grantees should discuss with their FPO before beginning a child care project.
Q: Can we serve youth under the age of 18 with Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) funding?
Response: The DWG program, along with the WIOA Dislocated Worker formula program, does not have an age requirement. An individual must meet the eligibility criteria of WIOA Section 3(15) to be considered a dislocated worker, or, in a Disaster Recovery DWG, the participant may be eligible to be served if he or she meets any of the following eligibility criteria:
- Temporary or permanent layoff as the result of disaster;
- Long term unemployed; or
- Self-employed and unemployed or significantly underemployed as the result of a disaster.
For more information on the Dislocated Worker program, please see: https://ion.workforcegps.org/resources/2018/06/05/16/28/WIOA-Desk-Reference-Dislocated-Worker-Programs.
Q: If a person is working in Disaster Relief Employment and contracts COVID-19, do we pay them wages during the two-week quarantine period?
Response: Disaster-relief participants who are injured or become ill while participating in disaster-relief employment may receive sick leave or other benefits as appropriate to enable them to return to work and to ensure that other participants remain safe and healthy. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide their employees with up to two weeks of fully or partially paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions apply from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. Disaster-relief participants who are being paid by an employer pursuant to the paid leave provisions of FFCRA are not eligible for unemployment insurance. For more information, please see: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
Q: May Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) participants be paid for activities that are not temporary disaster relief employment, e.g., job search or online training?
Response: There is no authority under WIOA for Disaster Recovery DWG to pay participants wages for activities that are not temporary disaster relief employment or training needed for workers to safely perform disaster relief employment.
A worker may not receive wages if he or she is not moved from disaster relief employment to general employment and training activities. However, participants may be paid for some training activities directly related to the employment in which a participant has been or will be placed. For example, if ETA approves a grantee spending funds from an otherwise unrelated Disaster DWG to respond to the pandemic, a disaster relief worker may be compensated for receiving safety and health training prior to conducting clean-up activities resulting from the impacts of coronavirus, without which he or she would not be able to safely participate.
Q: Does the Office of Management and Budget’s Memorandum M-20-20 give states the authority to repurpose a previously awarded WIOA National Dislocated Disaster grant to meet response needs of COVID-19?
Response: No, though grantees may have this flexibility in limited circumstances under WIOA regulations. Memo M-20-20 allows federal grant awarding agencies to extend additional flexibilities of requirements in the Uniform Guidance. Such flexibilities must also be consistent with program statutes and regulations. As noted above, generally, Disaster Recovery DWGs may be expanded to include new disaster impacts if they fall within the same program year of the award of the initial disaster (see Training and Employment Guidance Letter 12-19, National Dislocated Worker Grant Program Guidance, page 8). The addition of disaster events to an existing DWG project requires prior approval from the Grant Office through a grant modification request.
Q: Are virtual work experiences allowable in the WIOA Youth program?
Response: Yes, virtual work experiences are allowable under the WIOA youth program. Paid and unpaid work experience is one of the 14 program elements for the WIOA youth program. A work experience is a planned, structured learning experience that takes place in a workplace and provides youth with opportunities for career exploration and skill development. A work experience may take place in the for-profit, nonprofit, or public sector. Work experience is required to take place in the workplace, which ideally means on a work site where youth are in a work setting interacting with other workers in the specific industry and occupation. When due to the rural nature of a local area or during times of a pandemic (such as COVID-19), if it is not possible to provide work experiences on a work site, it is acceptable to provide remote or virtual work experiences for youth.
Q: Will WIOA Youth enrolled in work experience be eligible for any of the expanded unemployment programs in the CARES Act?
Response: States have flexibility in implementing Unemployment Insurance (UI) requirements, and eligibility requirements vary by state. Some UI decisions include a determination of whether and when someone is a trainee versus an employee. See https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/docs/trainees.asp. Please note that this is not the only determination needed for UI eligibility. Please contact your state unemployment insurance office for more information about UI requirements.
Q: If states and local areas were on track to meet the 20% work experience expenditure requirement before COVID-19 impacted grantees’ ability to put youth in work experiences, will ETA provide flexibility on these requirements?
Response: ETA acknowledges the tremendous impact that COVID-19 is having on all states and local areas’ abilities to implement the WIOA Youth program and, in particular, to provide work experiences in person at a workplace. States that believe they will not meet the requirement should first ensure they have exhausted all means of providing work experience opportunities, including telework and virtual work experience, as well as reviewing the list of expenditures that count towards the work experience expenditure requirement (i.e., those expenditures beyond just wages or stipends). When monitoring states for compliance, ETA will take into account the months that COVID-19 impacted the ability for local areas to place youth in work experiences. ETA is also available for technical assistance to help states meet or increase their work experience expenditure requirements.
Q: For in-school youth whose school is physically closed and where no virtual learning is available, can states consider these youth out-of-school, for purposes of meeting the WIOA requirement that states spend 75% of their funds on out-of-school youth?
Response: No. States and local areas cannot consider in-school youth whose school is physically closed as out-of-school youth for the purposes of the WIOA out-of-school youth expenditure requirement. For information on eligibility for the WIOA youth program, visit https://youth.workforcegps.org/resources/2017/03/09/11/34/WIOA-Youth-Program-Eligibility.
Q: For the low-income determination of eligibility for the WIOA Youth program, is it acceptable to use the parents' layoff due to COVID-19 for meeting the low-income requirement?
Response: If a youth or their household is able to meet the low-income threshold due to a parent’s layoff, the youth would meet the low-income definition for eligibility determination. Please remember, in-school youth must be low-income and meet one of the other barriers to be eligible, but out-of-school youth do not have to be low-income as long as they have one of a list of barriers. For more information on eligibility for the WIOA youth program, visit https://youth.workforcegps.org/resources/2017/03/09/11/34/WIOA-Youth-Program-Eligibility.
Q: Are there any precautions that we need to take when working with participants in the WIOA Youth program?
Response: ETA recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for youth program grantees and participants. We encourage youth-serving programs to review local, state, and federal health and safety guidance regarding COVID-19, and temporarily adjust program operations and services as needed.
Q: Our state’s WIOA Youth program requires participants to complete an academic assessment, such as CASAS. While there is an option for participants to take this assessment on a computer, it has to be proctored by a qualified staff person. This is difficult when schools, adult education sites, and American Job Centers are only providing virtual services. Can the program enroll the participant and complete required assessments after COVID-19-related emergency measures are lifted?
Response: ETA acknowledges the challenges that COVID-19 has created for states and local areas’ abilities to implement the WIOA Youth program. In order to receive services in the program, participants must receive an objective assessment, which often includes a basic skills assessment and an Individual Service Strategy (ISS) that informs the plan for services. For programs that are unable to execute their assessment process during this time, i.e., unable to provide assessments in-person and/or on-site with a proctor, they should do their best to obtain information virtually from schools or directly from the participant pertaining to assessment and develop an ISS based on the available information. The inability to meet with potential participants in person should not impede enrollment or service provision. When regular in-person assessment practices begin again, programs should formally assess participants, record results in the file, and update the ISS and service plan, if needed. Also, states and local areas may find it useful to visit the National Reporting System for Adult Education at https://nrsweb.org to learn about any changes or updates to assessment practices.
Q: Can states transfer funds from the WIOA Youth program to the WIOA Dislocated Worker program?
Response: Under current law, states may not transfer funds from the WIOA Youth program, but may transfer funds between the WIOA Adult and Dislocated Worker programs. Such transfers are within the WIOA waiver authority under Section 189. ETA will consider any waiver that a state proposes, and evaluates each waiver on a case-by-case basis according to the criteria specified in statute and listed at www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wioa/waivers. States may request waivers for transfers from the Youth program or for any other provisions. However, states should be ready to describe how quality services will still be provided to out-of-school youth.
Q: Can ETA provide relief on out-of-school youth (OSY) 20% Work Experience expenditure requirement?
Response: ETA acknowledges work experiences for youth during this time period may be harder to provide. Program expenditures on this program element may include more than just wages paid to youth. Allowable expenditures may include items such as:
- Wages or stipends paid for participation in a work experience;
- Staff time working to identify and develop a work experience opportunity, including staff time spent working with employers to identify and develop the work experience;
- Staff time working with employers to ensure a successful work experience, including staff time spent managing the work experience;
- Staff time spent evaluating the work experience;
- Participant work experience orientation sessions;
- Employer work experience orientation sessions;
- Classroom training or the required academic education component directly related to the work experience;
- Incentive payments directly tied to the completion of work experience; and
- Employability skills or job readiness training to prepare youth for a work experience.
When determining the types of expenditures that are allowable to help meet this requirement, additional information can be found in TEGL 08-15 and TEGL 21-16, p.15. If state and local areas do not meet this requirement at the end of their period of performance, the Department will follow standard monitoring procedures for this program element.
Q: Will ETA consider waiving credential attainment performance requirements in response to the challenges facing grantees and training providers related to COVID-19?
Response: Credential attainment is a primary indicator of performance required by WIOA performance accountability provisions, a basic purpose of the statute, and cannot be waived. The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education will closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 on grantee performance for all primary indicators of performance, including but not limited to credential attainment, measurable skill gains, second and fourth quarter employment (and education and training for the Youth program), and second quarter earnings. Additionally, the Departments will take all necessary and available action to ensure objectively fair performance assessments.
Q: In response to COVID-19, will ETA allow grantees to delay program exit for participants when services are delayed or canceled or there are challenges completing follow up activities?
Response: Grantees should continue to provide participants with the services they need and must continue to exit participants in accordance with the WIOA regulations and ETA’s performance guidance on the definition of exit. That definition requires that there be no plan to provide a participant with future services. In light of this, grantees have a few options for serving and exiting participants, despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These options include the following:
- Continue to provide services that participants need in a safe manner by providing services remotely and adhering to precautions recommended by health experts or required by state officials.
- Schedule future planned services for participants whose services have been disrupted due to COVID-19. For example, if a local program cancels a training for the remainder of the program year but plans to resume training in the fall, the fall training for these participants can be considered “future planned services,” and the program would not have to exit the participant.
- Allow participants to exit who no longer need services and do not have ongoing services or future planned services.
Q: What steps will ETA take to account for a decrease in performance across programs/states as programs are closed for a significant period of time during the pandemic? Will States be penalized for performance issues?
Response: The Departments of Education and Labor understand the challenges States may face meeting Program Year (PY) 2019 negotiated levels of performance given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. As a reminder, as noted in ETA’s Training and Employment Guidance Letter 11-19, Negotiations and Sanctions Guidance for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Core Programs the first year for which performance success or failure can be determined, for some of the primary indicators of performance, is PY 2020. No determinations of sanctions will be made based on the PY 2019 performance information. Furthermore, the Departments use a statistical adjustment model to calculate adjusted levels of performance at the end of the program year, which takes into account actual characteristics of participants served and the actual economic conditions experienced. The Departments will continue to closely monitor the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on services and performance outcomes.
Q: Will ETA consider delaying negotiations, as state offices may be closed for an unspecified period of time?
Response: At this time, the Department of Labor anticipates that the negotiations process will proceed, and we will conduct negotiations with states. Negotiations between the ETA Regional Administrators and the states began in May 2020, and the Department of Education is also negotiating with states throughout the Spring of 2020. The Departments anticipate negotiated levels of performance will be included in the approved State Plans. The Departments are aware that some state offices are closed and some States have implemented remote work. The Departments are also aware that state agency leadership and management staff may be involved with COVID-19 response efforts. As a result, the Departments will be as flexible as possible in conducting negotiations, including scheduling meetings at times that meet states’ needs.
Q: Does the WIOA statistical adjustment model address unusual situations such as what we are experiencing now with COVID-19?
Response: The statistical model is intended to adjust for changes in economic conditions and participant characteristics; however, it is too soon to estimate the extent to which the models can address the effects of COVID-19 through these parameters. The Departments will closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 on grantee performance and service delivery and take all necessary and available action to ensure objectively fair performance assessments.
Performance – All Grants
Q: COVID-19 will affect the numbers of people my grant can serve, and may impact performance. Will grantees be held accountable for those performance measures? Will future FOAs that use previous performance as a scoring criteria take the COVID-19 related disruptions into account?
Response: ETA understands there will be disruptions to services to participants that ultimately may impact performance. As ETA monitors these disruptions, ETA will provide guidance for competitive performance measures accordingly. ETA does not anticipate that these potential disruptions will affect current Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA) awarded by June 30, 2020. These grant competitions generally use prior performance for activities that have already taken place, and would not be impacted by any COVID-19 related disruptions.
Trade Act, or Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), Programs
Q: Can states continue to pay Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance (RTAA) customers whose hours are reduced because of COVID-19? In some states, state law provides that the employer defines “full time”; in these states does the state workforce agency continue to pay RTAA if the employer states the participant is working a full-time job but the RTAA recipient’s hours are temporarily reduced?
Response: RTAA payment is subject to the leave and pay policies of the employer. If the RTAA recipient is employed full time or employed part-time and participating in TAA approved training, states must still make RTAA payments. Time off provided by the employer for COVID-19 related issues would be treated no differently than a paid holiday. However, if the RTAA recipient’s hours have been reduced, payments must be adjusted based on the hours worked/paid. If the RTAA recipient becomes employed only part-time, they must also be enrolled in TAA approved training to remain eligible for RTAA.
Q: Do states have flexibility in the provision and documentation of case management and follow-up services for TAA Program participants, and former participants that have exited the TAA Program?
Response: States are still required to continue providing employment and case management services and documenting the provision of these services. However, states have the flexibility to provide these services in a way that is consistent with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Under TAA, like other programs, employment and case management services can be provided via phone or internet; for example, some states have used live broadcasting on social media platforms, videos, etc. States can also maintain electronic documentation, for TAA and all programs. States must continue to serve workers to the maximum extent possible, as petition certifications are ongoing.
Q: When a training provider has indicated that it has plans to transition to distance learning within the 30-day “break” period, as classes/trainings move from in-person to online, are Additional and Completion Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) payable?
Response: Additional TRA may be payable under these circumstances if the individual meets the eligibility requirements. If the training provider indicates that it will be back up and running within the 30-day period then the unscheduled break becomes a scheduled break and Additional TRA may be payable. This meets the requirement at 20 CFR 617.15(d)(1)(ii) that the break is provided for in the published schedule or the previously established schedule of training issued by the training provider or is indicated in the participant’s approved training plan. The other two components of 20 CFR 617.15(d)(1)(i) and (iii), which require the participant to be participating in training immediately before the beginning of the break and resuming participation in the training immediately after the break, would also have to be met and monitored accordingly to ensure that Additional TRA is payable. The state needs to emphasize that the continuation of the training via the new delivery system (i.e., online learning) is optimal and permits the participant to achieve training completion as scheduled, in accordance with TEGL No. 09-05 (Approval of Distance Learning Under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program).
Completion TRA is not payable because, as provided in TEGL No. 05-15, Change 1 Attachment A, Section C.6., “No payment for breaks in training are allowed, and the participant can only be paid Completion TRA for each week of full-time training, and then only if all five of the Completion TRA eligibility criteria described in Section C.5 of these Operating Instructions are met.”
Q: In addition to purchasing computers for TAA training participants to access required distance learning, can the TAA Program also pay for Internet access?
Response: If a school is transitioning to online instruction, a laptop and an internet connection would be required for all students and would, therefore, qualify as an allowable expense. When considering the implementation of internet service, the state will need to explore the service options available and select the one that meets the minimum bandwidth recommended by the school to access the training content.
Q: If a participant states that he or she is not attending school due to COVID-19, and has already used his or her permitted three weeks of approved illness under state UI law, should the state continue paying Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) until the participant return to school?
Response: The COVID-19 impact created an “unscheduled” break in training. Thus, Basic TRA may be payable if the adversely affected worker previously met the enrollment deadlines and other eligibility requirements. As this is an event that is “beyond the control of the individual,” there is a justifiable cause for the cessation of training or failure to begin. This is discussed in TEGL 05-15, Change 1, Attachment A, Section C 2.2. Please note, while Basic TRA may be payable to the worker, Additional or Completion TRA would not be, as they require participation in training. Requirements for Additional or Completion TRA can be found in TEGL 05-15, Change 1, Attachment A.
Q: If a participant pauses training due to COVID-19, should his or her training plan be modified to lengthen the time needed to complete the participant’s individual training program?
Response: TEGL 05-15, Change 1, Attachment A, Section D.4 (Length of Training) provides a maximum amount of 130 weeks of TAA training for 2015 Program participants and any training can be modified for the trade-affected worker to accommodate the worker’s completion of TAA training. (This also applies to 2002 and 2011 Program participants in accordance with the Operating Instructions for these respective programs. 2009 Program participants have a maximum length of training of 156 weeks, in accordance with the 2009 Program Operating Instructions, and that training can also be modified.) The participant’s training plan should be modified/amended to reflect a change in the potential completion date of the TAA training, specifically during the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, the TAA training weeks of actual training may not exceed 130 weeks even though the duration of such training from beginning to completion may be longer than 130 weeks (count weeks the worker is actually in training; could be non-consecutive).
Q: If a state has waived work search requirements for UI, can the state apply this to Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA)?
Response: Yes. If the state has waived the work search requirements consistent with DOL guidance, it must extend such waiver to the work search requirements that apply to the Extended Benefits (EB) program. This will then apply to TRA, which requires that the individual meet the EB work test. Extending the EB work search flexibilities maintains consistency with state law because the EB provisions are part of state law. Accordingly, the extension is unrelated to the state triggering “on” for EB.
Q: During COVID-19, is it possible to waive the requirement that the training vendor attests that an individual is participating in training, in order to pay TRA? Is it possible to waive the requirement that the training vendor provides documentation that an individual is making satisfactory progress and is on track to complete the TAA training on time?
Response: These determinations are based on state policy; a state has the flexibility to determine how to satisfy the requirements itemized in 20 CFR 617.19. The regulation at 20 CFR 617.19 does not dictate to states how it will determine if an individual is “actually” participating in TAA training; it only requires that the state make a determination that the individual was participating in TAA training to pay TRA. During COVID-19, it might be more practical to waive this state requirement—if training vendors are non-responsive to the state’s request for information on an individual’s participation in training—and use a participant’s self-attestation that they are participating in training.
States also have the flexibility to determine how to satisfy the requirements itemized in TEGL 05-15, Change 1, Attachment A, Section C.5.1. The guidance states that the state may request that the training vendor provide documentation that the individual is making satisfactory progress while in TAA training and that the case manager may attest that the worker is making satisfactory progress after speaking to the participant and the training vendor. Satisfactory progress throughout training is necessary for eligibility for Completion TRA, in the form of training benchmarks. Basic and Additional TRA do not require satisfactory progress – just “participation in TAA Training.”
While it is good practice to contact the training provider and the participant, it is not a requirement in TAARA 2015. There is a requirement to document that the individual is making satisfactory progress while in TAA training. There is no requirement that stipulates that the training vendor must be contacted to determine if the participant is making satisfactory progress while in training. Therefore, during COVID-19, it might be practical to waive the state requirement in instances where the training vendors are non-responsive to the state’s request for information on the participant’s satisfactory progress while in TAA training.
Q: Could TAA funds that are set to expire on September 30 be used to support efforts to serve dislocated workers immediately?
Response: TAA funds that are set to expire on September 30, 2020, may be used to serve trade-affected workers only. Section 236(a)(2)(A) of the Trade Act, as amended, limits funding to carry out its Sections 235, 236, 237, and 238. All these sections refer to workers certified under a petition for trade adjustment assistance and cannot be used to serve regular dislocated workers under WIOA.
Q: Can TAA funds be used for layoff aversion services, even if the company is not moving out of state? Can the TAA funds be used for WIOA Dislocated Worker programming? Can TAA funds be used for Rapid Response activities?
Response: TAA funds may only be used for layoff aversion services if the workers involved are covered under a certified petition, or for purposes of assistance in filing a petition for TAA. Adversely affected incumbent workers (AAIWs), who are members of a certified worker group threatened with separation, are eligible for training and employment and case management services while still employed. Section 236(a)(2)(A) of the Trade Act, as amended, limits funding to carry out its Sections 235, 236, 237, and 238. All these sections refer to workers certified under a petition for trade adjustment assistance, and cannot be used to serve regular dislocated workers under WIOA. If Rapid Response activities serve workers who are covered by a TAA certification, then Trade funds can be used for such Rapid Response services.
Q: Are signatures from the training institution or instructor required to sign off on a participant’s progress in training for purposes of Completion Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) eligibility?
Response: To determine that the worker has “substantially met the performance benchmarks established in the approved training plan,” TEGL No. 05-15, Change 1, Attachment A, Section C.5.1 (Training Benchmarks to meet Completion TRA Eligibility Requirements) explains that states must evaluate satisfactory progress against the two benchmarks at intervals of no more than 60 days, beginning with the start of the training plan. For this review, states may request the training vendor to provide documentation of the worker’s satisfactory progress. The case manager may attest to the worker’s progress after consultation with the vendor and the worker. The state may request that the worker provide documentation of the worker’s satisfactory progress toward meeting the training benchmarks from the vendor, such as through instructor attestations.
To address the question, the mechanism for such collection is flexible and not limited to hard copy signature only. A case manager may document telephone conversations, save emails into the case file, or use other similar collection mechanisms. If state policy requires that a signature be obtained, it would be helpful to determine if an electronic signature will meet state policy or if state policy could be met in some other way.
Q: If a school shuts down and an individual cannot participate in online classes, does the state move the individual to a Work Search Status until the individual returns to school?
Response: The State Workforce Agency should request an explanation as to why the individual cannot participate in online classes. If it is due to a lack of supplies (such as a computer), then that could be covered by TAA training funds. If the school is not offering online classes, and is therefore on a break, then the Extended Benefits work test does not apply in this case.
Q: If a TAA participant finds a job during this period, can the individual later return to the training program and resume training, or should the individual apply for a new training program?
Response: The individual may return or resume his or her approved TAA training plan. Amending or modifying that training plan is best addressed on a case by case basis. No individual shall be entitled to more than one training plan under a single certification, in accordance with 20 CFR 617.22(f)(2).
Q: What if an individual is on a waiver from training and stops looking for work because of COVID-19? The individual has not stated that he or she is sick, but the individual does not want to look for work at this time. Does the State Workforce Agency continue to pay benefits?
Response: All Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) require the individual to meet the Extended Benefits (EB) work test unless the individual is participating in TAA training. The EB work test provisions within State law govern whether this individual may be eligible. Please refer to 20 CFR 615.8(d), (e), (f), (g).
Q: If the payment of benefits is allowed while an individual is not in school, will the individual be required to satisfy the Extended Benefit (EB) Work Test for each week he or she is not in school?
Response: Without participation in TAA training, only basic TRA payments are allowed. If there is a cessation in TAA training, the EB work test does not apply, but nothing prevents the individual from continuing to seek employment. Additional and Completion TRA are not payable without participation in TAA training. Accordingly, conducting the EB work test is not required but nothing prevents the individual from continuing to seek employment.
Q: How long should State Workforce Agencies continue to pay Additional TRA Benefits?
Response: Benefits are payable if the individual is eligible. Additional TRA is payable for a maximum of 65 weeks after exhaustion of Basic TRA while the individual is in approved TAA training. Additional TRA is payable during the consecutive calendar weeks that occur in the 78-week period that begins immediately following the last week of entitlement to Basic TRA, the first week of approved TAA training if the training begins after the last week of entitlement to Basic TRA, or the first week in which TAA training is approved, if such training already has commenced (although Additional TRA or training costs may not be paid for any week before the week in which the TAA training was approved). See TEGL No. 5-15, Change 1, Attachment A, Section C.6. (Maximum Number of Weeks of TRA and Duration) for more information.
Q: Can TRA be paid to individuals whose full-time training is reduced to part-time due to COVID-19?
Response: Under Sec. 236(g)(2) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, individuals cannot receive TRA for part-time training.
Q: Due to COVID-19, if an individual requires a computer to continue his or her classes, even if the computer is not documented as required for all students, will the cost of the computer be covered?
Response: If a training institution requires that students take courses online due to COVID-19 and the individual does not have the equipment needed to continue his or her classes, then a computer is a requirement, and that cost should be covered accordingly. As ever, steps should be taken to set parameters around the reasonable cost of purchasing the computer.
Q: Can COVID-19 closures be a factor in invoking good cause and equitable tolling for deadlines?
Response: Yes, COVID-19 closures can be considered in determining, on an individual basis, whether to apply equitable tolling for a deadline or whether there is good cause for waiving the time limitations for an application for Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) or enrollment in training. Equitable tolling is addressed in Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 08-11, Availability of Equitable Tolling of Deadlines for Workers Covered Under Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Certifications. Federal good cause and justifiable cause is addressed in TEGL 5-15, Change 1, see Attachment A, Sections C. 2. 1 and 2. The individual determination to apply Federal good cause, justifiable cause, or equitable tolling lies with the state. Factors to be considered in applying Federal good cause include whether there is a compelling reason or circumstance that would prevent a reasonable person from meeting a deadline for filing an application for TRA or enrolling in training. For example, closures of American Job Centers due to COVID-19 may be a compelling reason preventing a reasonable person from filing an application for TRA or enrolling in training.
Q: The guidance in Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 14-20, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Summary of Key Unemployment Insurance (UI) Provisions and Guidance Regarding Temporary Emergency State Staffing Flexibility, provides an order of payments. Are states required to transition all Trade Readjustment Assistance-eligible individuals into Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
Response: No. Under section 2102 of the CARES Act, before individuals may receive PUA, they must not be eligible for—or must have exhausted—entitlement to regular compensation, additional compensation, and extended compensation, as well as Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation under section 2107 of the CARES Act. They must also have exhausted or been ineligible for Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) benefits. Thus, an individual may not receive PUA benefits where the individual is eligible for TRA benefits, and states may not transition such individuals to the PUA program.
Q: Is there a scenario in which Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is payable to an individual with remaining Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) entitlement?
Response: Yes. An individual with a remaining TRA entitlement or remaining weeks of benefits may be ineligible to receive such benefits because TRA requires “actual” participation in TAA training, specifically Additional and Completion TRA. If TAA training is suspended for any COVID-19 related conditions, the individual may meet the definition of a “covered individual” under Section 2102(a)(3) of the CARES Act if he or she is not eligible to receive TRA benefits. In that case, the individual may be eligible for PUA.
Q: What happens if an individual becomes entitled to Training Readjustment Assistance (TRA) after beginning receipt of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)? In the event the individual resumes TAA training, what benefit is payable?
Response: If an individual becomes entitled to TRA after beginning receipt of PUA, such individual is no longer a “covered individual” under Section 2102 of CARES Act, and would thus not be eligible for PUA, because the individual has not exhausted regular compensation or extended benefits under state or Federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation under Section 2107. TRA is regular compensation under Federal law. Accordingly, PUA benefits would no longer be available, and the individual may resume receipt of TRA.
Q: Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 14-20, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 - Summary of Key Unemployment Insurance (UI) Provisions and Guidance Regarding Temporary Emergency State Staffing Flexibility, implies that all Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) eligibility must follow exhaustion of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Does this mean that PUA eligibility reduces TRA maximum entitlement as provided at 20 CFR 617.14?
Response: No. PUA eligibility does not reduce the TRA maximum entitlement provided by 20 CFR 617.14.
The Trade Act, as amended, and the regulatory citation at 20 CFR 617.14 require that the maximum TRA payable be reduced by the amount of UI available to the individual, including:
- Regular compensation;
- Extended compensation; and
- Federal supplemental compensation (including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation in the first UI benefit period only.
PUA eligibility is like Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), as will be explained later, and is not included in the applicable reductions to TRA. While the regulations define UI entitlement to include additional compensation payable under state law, it does not apply since the 2002 amendments to the Act became effective. Any applicable reductions to the maximum TRA entitlement are applicable to Basic TRA only.
Additional and/or Completion TRA are payable for a specific number of weeks to assist the individual complete TAA training. Any UI entitlement available to the individual during the period in which Additional and/or Completion TRA are payable only suspend the TRA eligibility. It does not reduce the maximum number of weeks payable for Additional and/or Completion TRA. There may be a reduction in the weekly amount payable as a result of a pension or other disqualifying income under state law.
PUA eligibility, similar to DUA eligibility, as provided at 20 CFR 625.4(i) requires that the individual not be eligible for “compensation” as defined at 20 CFR 625.2(d). “Compensation” under the DUA regulations, which also govern PUA, includes any unemployment compensation as defined in section 85(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as well as regular compensation, additional compensation, extended compensation, federal supplementary compensation, and disability payments. It further includes Railroad Unemployment Insurance benefits and TRA. This establishes DUA and PUA as the payment of last resort such that there is an extremely limited opportunity for DUA and PUA to be paid before TRA.
An individual receiving Basic TRA whose TAA training is interrupted for a COVID-19 related reason may continue receiving Basic TRA as provided at 20 CFR 617.18(b)(2) if the cessation in such training is for justifiable cause. An individual whose TAA approved training is interrupted for a COVID-19 related reason cannot receive Additional/Completion TRA because these benefits require “actual” participation in TAA training. The latter individual may be eligible for PUA benefits, but, as explained above, PUA eligibility has no effect on TRA.
Indian and Native American Program (INAP) (WIOA sec. 166)
Q: What should those tribes that have delayed the start of INAP summer youth programs do if they only operate summer youth programs? Usually, tribes begin recruitment and enrollment in April or May in schools.
Response: INAP grantees should review state and local health advisories, school closure policies, and other state and local directives when considering the status of youth programs. INAP grantees may consider adjusting their plans to operate a year-round youth program with INAP youth funding and incorporate other activities such as tutoring, mentoring, and after-school program activities. INAP grantees may provide youth with the activities referenced in the regulations at 20 CFR 684.310(f). INAP grantees may also consider providing in-house soft-skills training, in conformity with agency or health advisories, using distance seating, teleconferencing, webinars, or other practices that allow instruction from a distance.
Q: If tribes find that they are unable to run an INAP summer and/or spring youth program, will they be allowed to carry forward the funds to the next program year?
Response: Yes, within the period of performance for the grant. The INAP youth program is considered a supplemental program primarily for the benefit of in-school youth. ETA will not recapture or reallocate supplemental youth funds. Many youths and their families will be economically impacted by this pandemic. Therefore, grantees may want to consider re-evaluating their own policies on eligible applicants, as long as such policies meet the eligibility requirements in the WIOA statute and regulations.
Wagner-Peyser Act Monitor Advocate System
Q: Have states’ Monitor Advocate responsibilities and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFWs) changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Response: No, the State Workforce Agencies’ (SWA) responsibilities in providing the full range of employment and training services to MSFWs have not changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. States may provide outreach services to MSFWs in various ways. For instance, states may conduct outreach to farmworkers virtually, or may call or text agricultural employers and farmworkers to relay the availability of services. Outreach staff may also utilize local radio and television stations to share pertinent information on job opportunities, safety, and protections, as well as local services and advisories. Virtual outreach may also include referrals to supportive services, such as to food pantries, health clinics, and farmworker advocacy groups that may be able to assist the migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
Q: How can State Monitor Advocates and state workforce agency staff conduct field checks during the pandemic?
Response: As defined in the Wagner-Peyser regulations (20 CFR 651.10), “field checks” means random, unannounced appearances by Employment Service (ES) staff and/or Federal staff at agricultural worksites to which ES placements have been made through the intrastate or interstate clearance system to ensure that conditions are as stated on the job order and that the employer is not violating an employment-related law. State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) must continue to conduct field checks, even though these field checks might be limited in nature. If SWA staff are not able to conduct in-person field checks at this time, SWA staff may conduct field checks virtually, and in doing so, may reach out to the U.S. workers that were placed on these clearance jobs, to ensure working conditions and pay are as stated on the clearance order. ETA expects SWAs to resume in-person field checks as soon as it is safe to do so.
Q: Do State Monitor Advocates have to continue monitoring local offices during the pandemic?
Response: State Monitor Advocates (SMA) shall make all efforts to conduct monitoring of local offices either onsite or virtually. SMAs should adhere to state and local government directives on health and safety, even when this means postponing local office reviews due to closed American Job Centers. SMA may adapt their monitoring format by conducting virtual reviews of local offices that are providing virtual services or of those local offices providing limited in-person services.
Q: If state staff cannot easily access their normal systems for reporting, can State Monitor Advocates and farmworker outreach staff use an online document for monthly summary reports of outreach efforts?
Response: Yes, the Employment Service office manager may submit the monthly summary report of outreach efforts using an online document. Outreach staff must still maintain complete records of their contacts with MSFWs and the services they perform, but it is up to the discretion of the state as to what format the state will use to track outreach activities. See 20 CFR 653.107 (b)(8) for more information.
Q: Can outreach contacts made virtually to farmworkers be counted as an outreach contact in the Monitor Advocate reporting system?
Response: Any contact with migrant and seasonal farmworkers made via calls, email, or text messaging counts as an outreach contact, so long as the contact included the provision of information on the full range of employment and training services available to MSFWs. If radio and television are used to contact farmworkers, states can explain that in the narrative portion of the Labor Exchange Agricultural Reporting System (LEARS) report.
Q: Since there may be reductions in the number of people served, are Monitor Advocate performance indicators changing?
Response: ETA understands there will be disruptions to services to MSFWs that ultimately may impact performance for the remainder of Program Year 2019. States can include explanatory narrative in their performance reports, or provide information to the state’s Regional Monitor Advocate; please copy the National Monitor Advocate in such reports at NMA@dol.gov. Depending on the length of disruptions, ETA may adjust some Monitor Advocate process metrics such as equity ratio indicators and minimum service level indicators.
Q: Wagner-Peyser regulations for the Monitor Advocate system require that states must have a full-time State Monitor Advocate (SMA) except in certain circumstances that require Department of Labor approval. Can a state temporarily reassign the SMA under emergency circumstances?
Response: States must maintain required functions of the SMA in their positions. The SMA and outreach staff play important roles in ensuring agricultural employers have access to farmworkers and that workers can safely and expeditiously access agricultural jobs. This is a critical time to ensure labor exchange services such as the Agricultural Recruitment System (ARS) are available to job seekers and agricultural employers to maintain our nation’s food supply. While SMAs must remain in their positions, if outreach staff have additional time after fulfilling their responsibilities, the Department recognizes that states may need to leverage these staff members to help support other critical functions, such as Unemployment Insurance.
Q: Farmers are concerned about the availability of farm laborers. Have any adjustments been made to the H-2A program to ensure sufficient farm laborers will be available?
Response: ETA’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification oversees the H-2A labor certification program for the U.S. Department of Labor and has provided two sets of frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 at www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/faqs_pdf.cfm, and will be posting additional ones in the future. States should continue to use the Agricultural Recruitment System (ARS) through their local labor exchange to ensure agricultural employers are connected with U.S. job seekers. For questions about how to strengthen ARS in your state, State Monitor Advocates can contact their Regional Monitor Advocate, as listed at www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/agriculture/monitor-advocate-system/contact.
Q: What information is available for farmers and workers on what they can be doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the labor camps and the agricultural work environment?
Response: The U.S. Department of Labor published Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus at www.dol.gov/coronavirus. The link includes information on workplace safety, wages, hours and leave, unemployment insurance flexibilities, and more. Additionally, the site https://farmworker.workforcegps.org/resources/2019/09/26/18/04/MSFW_Special_Topics provides a collection of English and Spanish resources published by ETA and other federal agencies for states, National Farmworker Jobs Program grantees, agricultural employers and other partners who serve migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The list contains federal resources, including resources in Spanish where available. As ETA identifies more resources, ETA will post them at this link.
Q: Are there resources for farmworkers in Spanish?
Response: The U.S. Department of Labor has provided a variety of resources in Spanish:
- CareerOneStop is a website sponsored by the Department’s Employment and Training Administration. Information in Spanish can be accessed at https://www.careeronestop.org/ResourcesFor/resources-for.aspx?lang=es.
- OSHA’s guidance in Spanish for preparing workplaces for COVID-19 can be found at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3992.pdf.
- OSHA’s Guidance in Spanish for preventing workers’ exposure to COVID-19 can be found at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3991.pdf.
- CDC’s resources in many languages are available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/factsheets.html. These resources include, “15 Days to Slow the Spread” of Coronavirus, “What to do if you are sick,” “What you need to know,” and much more.
National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP)
Q: Some NFJP participants may not be able to complete training, or obtain certifications or jobs right now. As NFJP grantees assess participant needs, can grantees shift some training dollars to supportive services?
Response: Under the 2019 appropriations bill, NFJP grantees must spend 70% of their Career Services and Training funds on employment and training services. (This requirement is also incorporated into NFJP grant terms and conditions in the order of precedence section.) The term “employment and training services” means all allowable career services, training services, housing services, and youth services (as explained in 20 CFR 685.340, 20 CFR 685.350, 20 CFR 685.360, and 20 CFR 685.370), including supportive services (defined in 20 CFR 685.110 and WIOA Section 3(59)). Please also see page 18 of TEGL No. 19-16, “Guidance on Services provided through the Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Service (ES),” which provides specific examples of supportive services: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEGL/TEGL_19-16.pdf.
Employment and training services do not include related assistance (as defined in 20 CFR 685.110 and further explained in 20 CFR 685.380) or administrative costs (20 CFR 683.215). Grantees may spend up to 30% of their awarded funds on a combination of related assistance, including emergency assistance and administrative costs, further subject to the administrative cost of limitation of 15%.
Grantees’ approved budgets and budget narratives generally include a breakdown of the costs allotted to training, supportive, and related assistance services. If the grantee’s request to shift program funds requires a program plan or budget update, then grantees should work with their Federal Project Officer to document these changes through a grant modification.
Q: NFJP regulations do not allow grantees to provide emergency services for an adult who is in follow-up. Can this requirement be temporarily lifted during COVID-19 so that grantees can assist former participants whose work may be reduced or temporarily terminated? It is difficult to re-enroll them as reportable individuals and provide them emergency assistance since they might no longer meet eligibility requirements if they have been away from farm work for a time.
Response: Grantees must continue to follow the instructions provided in 20 CFR Part 685 and TEGL No. 18-16. Both participants and reportable individuals must meet eligibility requirements, so re-enrolling participants in the situation described above to receive emergency assistance may not always be feasible. However, there are circumstances where an NFJP grantee can provide emergency assistance. For example, if the only barrier to enrolling an individual is documentation of their current occupation, please note that when an individual receives emergency assistance only (and no other NFJP services), an applicant’s self-certification is accepted as sufficient documentation of eligibility. Only participants enrolled in NFJP may receive supportive services. As described in TEGL No. 18-16, NFJP grantees may provide emergency assistance to H-2A temporary agricultural workers to address an immediate and short-term need.
Q: Is the eligibility verification process for NFJP changing?
Response: Eligibility determination is a critical and non-waivable function of ETA programs. Grantees can adjust their processes and policies for application and eligibility verification process, e.g., moving from hard copies to paperless and electronic submissions that protect Personally Identifiable Information. Grantees should continue to follow WIOA regulations and ETA guidance. Please note that in addition to the documents often used to verify farmworker status and low-income status, self-attestation and case notes are acceptable when no other documentation is available. Selective Service documentation is often available as electronic records, which should be used whenever possible. ETA plans to publish updated data validation guidance soon, including detailed information on when self-attestation is appropriate.
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
Q: Will SCSEP duration limits be suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Response: Under section 3223 of the recently enacted Coronovirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Department has the authority to extend individual participant duration limits and average duration limits for a grantee in situations where such an extension is appropriate due to the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Department is providing blanket approval for grantees to implement such extensions to the extent that they are appropriate to mitigate the effects of the public health emergency, and will issue administrative guidance for how to implement this. This guidance will not allow for indefinite extensions on duration limits but will allow for reasonable extensions in proportion to the severity and duration of the impact on each grantee.
Q: Will the deadline for SCSEP data validation be extended?
Response: ETA recognizes that it may be difficult for some grantees to complete certain normally scheduled tasks like data validation (DV), assessments and IEPs, and recertifications. On the other hand, some grantees have expressed their intention to keep their staff employed in conducting these activities remotely.
The 6-month period for completing DV expired on April 15. In recognition of the work many grantees are engaged in to ensure that their participants are safe and paid during the pandemic, ETA extended the deadline to May 15. Many grantees have already completed DV or made good progress toward completion.
Q: Will ETA permit SCSEP recertification to be conducted via phone or virtually?
Response: ETA has always allowed grantees to conduct DV remotely. Those grantees that still have some operating capacity during COVID-19, and that have not yet obtained the sample case files, should arrange for the files to be sent to them as soon as possible. All grantees should continue to work on DV during this period as safety and staffing permits. DV is an important way to maintain the integrity of SCSEP data and to identify the need for staff training. ETA will reassess the situation and provide further guidance should conditions change.
Q: We are in an area with confirmed cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and/or an area that is taking broad public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Are we allowed to pay participants whose host agency assignments or paid training activities are impacted by COVID-19, particularly in situations where regional or localized quarantine efforts prevent participants from attending training sites in person?
Response: We recognize that the current COVID-19 outbreak presents unique challenges for SCSEP grantees and participants. The program’s participants are particularly vulnerable for several reasons, including their reliance on SCSEP wages and benefits, as well as their age, which appears to place them in higher risk categories for complications due to COVID-19 disease. Grantees can act to minimize disruptions in the payments to participants of SCSEP wages and benefits, and to minimize the exposure risk encountered by SCSEP participants and grant staff. In addition, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control page on the novel coronavirus for the latest updates and medical advice: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/.
Note that, even in the unusual situation prompted by community transmission of the novel coronavirus, your SCSEP grant remains subject to the laws, regulations, and policies that apply to SCSEP, including the authorizing statute (Older Americans Act, Title V, 42 U.S.C. sec. 3056, et seq., as amended), the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Grant Guidance at 2 CFR Part 200 and 2 CFR Part 2900), SCSEP regulations (20 CFR Part 641), applicable DOL guidance, and the terms and conditions specified in your grant award. However, depending on the situation in your communities, you have several options that may minimize disruption to SCSEP participants while still adhering to the applicable rules. The options described below, alone or in combination, should help to prevent disruptions to many participants affected by the emergency. However, if for some reason, a participant goes more than three days without pay due to the crisis, such participant must be placed on an approved break until alternative arrangements are made in order to avoid a negative impact to the participant’s durational limit calculation.
Use of Paid Sick Leave
In situations where COVID-19 impacts host agencies or paid training activities, or where in-person attendance by SCSEP participants may expose them or others to the risk of viral transmission, grantees can use paid sick leave consistent with their organizations’ policies. Paid sick leave may serve as a means of limiting SCSEP participants’ public exposure while minimizing disruption in the payment of participant wages and benefits.
The SCSEP regulations at 20 CFR 641.565(b)(1)(vi) state that “Grantees and sub-recipients must provide necessary sick leave that is not part of an accumulated sick leave program, which may be paid or in the form of rescheduled work time.” The regulations do not further define what constitutes “necessary sick leave,” nor do the regulations place minimums or maximums on the amount of sick leave that may be provided to SCSEP participants. Accordingly, grantees have flexibility to define these parameters through sick leave policies at the grantee level, provided that such policies adhere to applicable rules governing SCSEP grants, including the “Factors affecting allowability of costs” and “Reasonable costs” specified in Uniform Grant Guidance at 2 CFR 200.403 and 2 CFR 200.404, respectively. In general, consistent with 20 CFR 641.565(b)(1)(i), such policies must ensure uniform treatment of all participants under your project or sub-project. Grantees should already have such policies in place, but in light of the scope of the current situation, we encourage you to either review existing policies and amend them as necessary, or initiate new policies to govern the use of paid sick leave.
Rescheduled Work Time
Consistent with the SCSEP regulations’ treatment of sick leave as cited above, where feasible, you may allow participants to “make up” missed time in a community service assignment or paid training activity by rescheduling the activity to a later date when the site reopens. The SCSEP regulations do not limit the opportunity to make up time to the next payroll period. As noted above, to ensure consistent and equitable treatment of sick leave, we encourage you to ensure that your organization’s sick leave policies address situations in which participants receive paid sick leave versus rescheduled work time.
Assignments in Temporary Host Agencies and/or Remote Training Opportunities
Depending on the situation in your communities, you may also assign participants to perform community service training with temporary host agencies. For example, if you are in an area without broad community transmission, but one host agency must temporarily close due to suspected COVID-19 exposure, it may be appropriate to temporarily assign affected participants to an alternate host agency (note that affected participants would need to be reassigned accordingly in SPARQ).
Alternatively, you may engage participants in permissible online training activities or SCSEP meetings conducted remotely. Any training or supportive services activity that would normally be allowable under SCSEP can be used in an emergency situation such as COVID-19 (in this instance, participants would remain assigned to their current host agencies). Such activity must be reasonable and documented. Keep in mind that specialized training activities must align and be consistent with the participant’s Individual Employment Plan.
Q: To implement the options above, what should my next steps be, and will ETA need to approve my plan?
Response: In many cases, you will be able to implement the activities described above without a formal modification to the grant statement of work (SOW), and without specific additional formal approval from ETA.
In particular, if you decide to amend or change your organization’s sick leave policy (for paid sick leave and/or rescheduled work time) for SCSEP participants affected by COVID-19, this will not require a modification to the grant SOW. While your grant documents include program assurances in which you agreed to maintain policies and procedures covering necessary sick leave, we do not consider such policies part of your SOW; rather, they are policies that your Federal Project Officer (FPO) may review later during grant monitoring (similar to your other policies on fiscal controls, etc.) to ensure compliance with the grant terms and conditions.
Regarding the option to provide temporary host agency assignments to affected SCSEP participants, this activity should generally already be covered by your current SOW, since host agency assignments are a core component of every SCSEP project. Accordingly, a SOW modification would not be required to implement this activity.
Regarding remote training opportunities, these activities may also still fall under your current SOW and budget. However, depending on your current budget and whether or not you have a current Program Year 2019 approval for Additional Training and Supportive Services (ATSS) (per 20 CFR 641.874), you may need to modify your budget and/or submit an ATSS request to ensure that your proposed activities are properly reflected in your grant agreement. As needed, please work with your FPO to determine whether such requests are necessary.
Q: Some Senior Community Service Employment Program participants are due for eligibility re-certifications, but are on sick leave due to COVID-19. Normally without re-certification within 30 days of the due date, such participant records are rejected. Will ETA extend the time to complete re-certifications?
Response: The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) regulations at 20 CFR 641.505 state, "Once individuals become SCSEP participants, the grantee or sub-recipient is responsible for verifying their continued eligibility at least once every 12 months." Grantees must continue to follow this requirement. However, there are multiple mechanisms to review and save eligibility documentation. For example, using video-call software, program staff can maintain a screenshot of the document for the file, if the grantee policy allows. Grantees are ultimately responsible for ensuring the accuracy and validity of documents. Eligibility processes should include some type of validation.
Q: If COVID-19 affects the ability of Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) grantees and their partners to meet the match requirement of their program, how will DOL address it?
Response: The SCSEP regulations at 20 CFR 641.809(a) state that “The Department will pay no more than 90 percent of the total cost of activities carried out under a SCSEP grant. (OAA Section 502(c)(1)).” The Department recognizes the challenges that some grantees are experiencing due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Department will apply available flexibilities at grant closeout to provide reasonable assistance to grantees who are unable to meet the match requirement due to COVID-19 impacts. However, ETA does expect that PY 2019 SCSEP grants will meet a portion of their original match requirement, given that the impact of COVID-19 did not begin until the third quarter of the program year. In the final closeout report, grantees should include a brief explanation of the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency on their ability to meet the match requirement. ETA will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on SCSEP grant operations in PY 2020 and will assess at a later date whether PY 2020 projects will be subject to similar flexibilities.
American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI)
Q: For American Apprenticeship Initiative grantees, what are the expectations for employer outreach and activities, which normally require meeting with people?
Response: Grantees will need to assess their local situation to determine the best course of action for employer outreach. ETA encourages grantees and subrecipients to find alternative methods to reach out to employers such as virtual and telephone outreach. However, the health and safety of grantee staff, partners, and the general public should take priority. If alternative outreach efforts require changes to the grantee’s Statement of Work and/or budget, grantees should discuss grant modification requests with their Federal Project Officer.
Q: Can AAI grantees modify the budget and activities to build new capacity that is more resilient to emergencies like COVID-19, e.g., procedures for developing communication to apprentices, employers, sponsors, related instruction providers, etc.?
Response: ETA will consider Statement of Work (SOW) modifications and budget modifications necessary to adjust program delivery and design as a result of COVID-19. Grantees should discuss potential SOW and budget modifications with their Federal Project Officer. Certain changes, such as internal emergency preparedness activities, may not change the statement of work or budget, and are at the discretion of the grantee.
Foreign Labor Certification Activities of State Workforce Agencies
Q: Should foreign labor certification housing inspections continue? Can states utilize video/pictures or other options in light of the large number of those who have traveled here from other countries?
Response: Under ETA’s existing grant planning guidance, State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) are permitted any Alternative Housing Inspection Methods or Arrangements, which can include – in lieu of physical inspection – temporarily permitting the submission of pictures, videos, or other documentation from employers that can assist the SWA in making a determination that housing complies with applicable standards. In addition to documentation furnished by the employer, the SWA may take into consideration any evidence of prior inspections and compliance for the same or similar housing used by the employer. In carrying out these alternative methods or arrangements, OFLC strongly recommends the SWA:
- Ensure employers are provided a full copy of the applicable housing standards and/or checklist used by the SWA;
- Clearly identify the documentation employers must provide to assist the SWA in making a determination regarding housing compliance; and
- Accurately track and retain all evidence submitted by the employer, similar to any other housing-related documentation, demonstrating compliance in the event of a future audit, field visit, or inspection by DOL or SWA staff.