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Nevada spent $15 million to help 350 people find jobs

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Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
February 22, 2024

Job development agencies in Nevada spent $44,769 per person — the highest of all 50 states and 20 times the national average — to provide career services to 350 newly unemployed workers in fiscal year 2022, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The effort cost taxpayers $15 million, about 40% of the state’s $38 million annual allotment for workforce development under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) from the DOL.

The national average spent on career services for a dislocated worker in the same year was $2,232.

“They spent $15 million and only provided career services to 350 people.That’s embarrassing for Nevada, given the number of jobs open in the state,” said John Pallasch, former assistant secretary of employment and training for the DOL during the Trump administration.

Pallasch notes Nevada has the highest job growth as well as the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and 78,000 vacant positions as of the end of 2023. “How much is it going to cost to fill those jobs?”

Career services under WIOA, enacted by President Barack Obama in 2014, consists of job searches, resume building, skills assessments, computer class, interview training, help paying for work expenses, such as work boots, and other related assistance. 

“Career services are very basic,” says Pallasch. “It’s ‘Hey, I lost my job.’ ‘Cool. Here’s a job board. And there’s a computer over there. And we have a lot of manufacturing jobs in this area. See you later.’”

DETR defended its programs. “The programs mentioned have different needs and different participation rates,” a spokeswoman said via email. “While the per-participant cost may appear higher in this context, it reflects our dedication to upholding program standards and ensuring a valuable experience for each participant.”

Of the 350 dislocated workers who received career services in FY 2022, 236 also received training from state-approved providers at a cost of $886 per person, or $210,844.

“There are no training programs I know of that cost $800. At least not any that local workforce boards are using,” Pallasch said. The national average cost of training for a dislocated worker in FY 2022 was $3,544. Training costs generally exceed the cost of career services, with the exception of youth participants.

Pallasch says states are placing people into subpar training programs and says he created a website meant “to force states to look at the training programs they’re putting WIOA participants in. They’re required to keep the lists up to date and do performance checks, but they don’t. Once you’re on the list, you’re on the list forever.” 

‘Use it or lose it’

Pallasch says Nevada’s $15 million investment in career services for 350 people does not reflect the actual value of the services provided. Instead, he says, in an environment that requires states to use or lose their allocation of WIOA funds, states spend whatever they are allotted by the federal government. 

“The reality is because the workforce boards have rent payments, because they have recurring bills, because they have salaries, they’re spending all of this money. Whether they serve 350 people or 550 people, it’s going to cost them $15 million. That’s the problem. The money is not going to the individual job seeker. The vast majority of that money went to overhead and costs,” says Pallash, who says he flagged the issue for the U.S. Inspector General, asking how states, during the pandemic, “could possibly have spent all the WIOA money when all of the career centers were closed.” 

DOL allotted Nevada $31.7 million in WIOA funds for 2020; $39.1 million in 2021; $38.2 million in 2022; and $41.4 million last year. The state takes a 10% cut off the top for administrative services and each governor is permitted to set aside up to 15% for pet projects.

“These funds are pooled in the Governor’s Reserve, providing additional flexibility for Governors to invest funding without needing to follow the program restrictions of each of the sources,” states the National Governors Association’s website. 

“As prescribed in the Act and federal regulations, that State set-aside has been used towards those allowable activities,” Gov. Joe Lombardo’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray said. She directed questions about the specifics to DETR, which did not immediately provide details of the programs funded by the Governor’s Reserve.

“There may be no more dysfunctional part of state government than in the services provided to our workforce,” Lombardo said in his State of the State speech in 2023. “Delays, fraud, and system failures have become commonplace.”

Funds flow down to the local workforce boards, which are charged with contracting direct service providers. 

The state served 5,273 participants in FY 2022, according to DOL reports, but it’s unknown how many received jobs. Pallasch suggests states that fail to meet their performance goals should be monetarily sanctioned.

Workforce Connections, which oversees the bulk of job development programs in the state, directed the Current to a dashboard that suggests 2,412 participants remained employed in the second quarter following their completion of a program in FY 2022, earning approximately $32,446 a year, based on quarterly earnings.   

According to the DOL, the average quarterly salary in FY 2022 for a Nevada adult after receiving workforce assistance was $7,961; $8,812 for a dislocated worker, and $4,370 for a youth.

“The workforce development community loves to talk about the number of people served,” Pallasch observed. “I like to think about the number of people you put in a job. Serving somebody doesn’t mean you help them or benefit them in any way. It means you provided them a service. It could have been terrible service.”

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.