DWD: Wisconsin Works is Working


Statement by Secretary Roberta Gassman

Department of Workforce Development

Joint Legislative Audit Committee on W-2

March 14, 2006

The Goal of W-2 is Workforce Attachment

The Department fully supports the goal of W-2 to assist low-income families in achieving economic self-sufficiency through employment.  With ultimate self-sufficiency as the goal,
W-2 is a key step in a continuum of workforce development programs and services that help families become self-sufficient.  The economic supports that W-2 provides, such as access to child care, medical assistance, FoodShare and strong child support collection, are also critical in helping low-income families move from poverty to self-sufficiency.

The Department has taken many positive steps over the past three years to strengthen the program and financial management of W-2.  Our goal is to ensure that W-2 is administered in a manner that best serves our customers while protecting public resources.

Chief among the positive steps taken by DWD are improved W-2 contracts focusing on outcomes and job retention for participants; increased financial accountability; effective connections with employers, strengthening participant connections to work and career ladders; providing employment stabilization services; and, for those individuals with multiple and severe barriers, providing assistance in obtaining Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income.

Wisconsin has a unique opportunity before us, presented by a recovering economy and an aging population.  More people are retiring and leaving the workforce than those entering.  This means an increased demand for workers, in health care, technology, and construction and in many other industries.  With each passing month, these labor shortages intensify and our W-2 participants have even greater opportunities for employment and paths to economic self sufficiency.

W-2 participants must be prepared for these opportunities and for the fact that the first job a W-2 participant receives need not be the last job he or she obtains.  W-2 must be viewed as one program within the broader public workforce system that supports individuals in making their initial as well as next step connections to employment.   Once unsubsidized employment is obtained, connections to other workforce programs such as those provided under the Workforce Investment Act and through the technical colleges will allow individuals to continue to move up career ladders and pathways to economic self-sufficiency.

To better connect individuals to work and career ladders, DWD is continually working with
W-2 agencies to:  improve connections to employers; strengthen case management; enhance services to participants who have not yet obtained employment through increased services to a case management services category; provide more intensive activities and services for individuals in CSJs; and, promote advancement opportunities through improved career development activities.  Once a participant obtains employment, it is critical that agencies provide services to stabilize the individual’s ability to retain that employment.  The Department is committed to ensuring that agencies strengthen participant connections to job centers, Workforce Investment Act services and the technical colleges.

We have already shown great success in moving W-2 participants to employment.  Since 2004, Wisconsin has had over 9,000 entered employments.  Related to this, we have improved job attainments, beginning wages and the types of placements for our W-2 participants.

Contract improvements

DWD entered into our latest contracts with W-2 agencies in January 2006 with improved financial and programmatic controls and stricter performance outcomes.

Chief among the improvements in our latest W-2 contracts are specific changes for the delivery of services in Milwaukee County, where the largest population of the state’s caseload resides, separating the different W-2 functions of case management, job development and Social Security Income/Social Security Disability Income (SSI/SSDI) eligibility determination (see attached diagram). Having different entities specialize in the delivery of separate W-2 services will produce better outcomes for participants and stronger connections to employers and jobs.

For some individuals, assistance and advocacy in obtaining SSI/SSDI are the most appropriate services for the W-2 agency to provide.

As the Department continues to strengthen outcomes for families, we believe it is essential that we increase service integration.  DWD is working with the Departments of Health and Family Services, Corrections, and Public Instruction to improve services for those families who are involved with multiple programs administered by different state and local agencies.  Improved coordination across programs through service integration will improve outcomes, especially for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable families.

Improved Financial and Administrative Management

    • Increased management and financial accountability for W-2 Agencies in financial reporting, cost reimbursement controls and cost oversight by limiting, prohibiting and/or requiring additional reporting for promotional expenses, telecommunications, executive compensation, legal services and retainers and rent;

    • Requirement of fidelity bond backing from all private agencies to reimburse the state in the event an agency does not fulfill its contractual obligation;

    • Performance based incentive reimbursement by DWD ensuring that large agencies earn final 20% of state allocation based on success in meeting program outcomes;

    • New standards and incentives focusing on the successful outcomes of participants to obtain and retain employment; and,

    • Increased oversight of agency governance for non-governmental agencies including operations of board of directors, bylaws, training and maintenance of records and minutes.

Improved Program Management

    • New performance standards focusing on successful participant outcomes in areas including obtaining and retaining employment, enrollment in relevant job skills training and receiving eligibility for SSI/SSDI support;

    • Increased requirements that agencies connect to local employers to expand job opportunities for W-2 participants;

    • Increased requirements that agencies assist participants in retaining new jobs;

    • New requirements that agencies ensure the provision of short-term skills training for participants, where appropriate, to ensure improved job placement success; and,

    • New requirements that agencies integrate services with other workforce development and community support programs and providers in areas such as child welfare to better serve participants facing multiple challenges.

Changes for Milwaukee County W-2 Agencies

    • Increased focus on effective participant workforce attachment through stronger connections with employers and the use of Job Development and Placement Agencies;

    • Increased focus on the provision of effective case management services through specialized Case Management Agencies;

    • Increased focus on expeditiously assisting people who are likely eligible for SSI/SSDI benefits through a specialized countywide SSI/SSDI Advocacy Agency;

    • Creation of a Preferred Provider registry to be used by Milwaukee W-2 Agencies for providing specialized case services that will assure quality, cost savings and community involvement;

    • Increased number of W-2 Agencies and, as a result, a reduction in the concentration of W-2 resources in a few entities whose performance could jeopardize the overall program; and,

    • Creation of an Ombudsperson at DWD to support W-2 applicants and participants in rapidly addressing their needs and challenges in accessing W-2 services.

Since the inception of W-2, each two-year contract cycle has seen the department strengthen its monitoring techniques to assure the highest quality service for all customers.  Some of the department’s improvements in program monitoring over the past three years include:

    • Monthly reviews of performance standards to ensure positive performance outcomes and identify and correct any performance problems;

    • Case reviews to monitor appropriate placements, quality case management, and the completion of employment plans for participants by Financial and Employment Planners (FEPs);

    • Reviews of a sample of twenty-four and sixty month extension requests to determine if requests were approved or denied appropriately;

    • Reviews of all non-extension requests on a monthly basis to determine if the agency’s decision not to grant a participant extension request was appropriate;

    • Reviews of all subcontracts that agencies enter into for provision of W-2 services; and,

    • Monthly fact-finding reviews of all agencies.

Additional Milwaukee Improvements

DWD has also reinforced services to W-2 Milwaukee participants by:  retaining  the Milwaukee Regional Office for on-site monitoring and continual communication with the Milwaukee W-2 agencies; creating an ombudsperson to ensure agencies’ responsiveness to participant concerns; creating a Job Development Placement Agency network to coordinate job placements throughout the county; consolidating job center service points; refocusing connections to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and maintaining a registry of preferred providers in Milwaukee.

The Future

The Department is committed to ensuring that the W-2 program advances participant connections to employment and career ladders.  This focus on workforce attachment will build upon the more than 9,000 entered employments since 2004.

The Department is focusing program services on strengthened participant connections to work and career ladders, employment stabilization services and, for those individuals with multiple and severe barriers, assistance in obtaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). 

The Department also believes that implementing a Trial Jobs Plus initiative, increases to the minimum wage and increasing service integration will support the success of W-2 participants.  W-2 is often the program that supports individuals in making their initial connection to employment.  We want that connection to provide the foundation for moving to self-sufficiency and for leaving poverty.

All individuals deserve a chance to move up the career ladder and the opportunity to support their families.