|November 3, 2008|
2006 Report to Employees Management that Maximizes the Mission
Download the full report (PDF 2.7MB)
Dear DOL Colleagues:
This third annual Report to Employees once again highlights the many successes the Department of Labor has achieved under the President's Management Agenda. As we look back at these accomplishments, it is not hard to see why DOL remains at the top of all Federal Departments in meeting our commitments in the five government-wide President's Management Agenda initiatives. The Office of Management and Budget has rated us green in Strategic Management of Human Capital, Competitive Sourcing, Improved Financial Performance, Expanded Electronic Government, and Budget and Performance Integration.
In three additional President's Management Agenda initiatives found in selected Federal agencies, the Department achieved green in Eliminating Improper Payments and Faith-Based and Community Initiative and has made excellent progress in Real Property.
Because of the hard work of DOL employees, the Department was also the first agency to be awarded the President's Quality Award for Performance in Integrating Management Systems. This President's Quality Award is the highest award given to Executive Branch agencies for management excellence and for specific management initiatives as outlined in the President's Management Agenda.
Another exceptional achievement was being ranked number one by George Mason University's Mercatus Center for the fourth year in a row for our 2005 Performance and Accountability Report, which included our ninth consecutive clean audit opinion. This report is evidence of the quality that we can attain by teaming up across the DOL Agencies.
I am very proud of the scores, awards, and recognition that DOL has received. This level of excellence can make a real difference in people's lives. Just look at DOL's extraordinary response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They are prime examples of the true dedication of the DOL workforce. We came together not only to meet our responsibilities to the American people but to support our colleagues in need.
We are making a difference at the U.S. Department of Labor one employee at a time. There can be no greater calling. For this, I am truly proud.
Elaine L. Chao
Statement from the Deputy Secretary
Proud to Be at Labor. Personal Best. Management that Maximizes the Mission. These are more than themes of our annual reports to employees. These are ways of doing business such as ensuring that the programs we provide for American citizens are as effective and accessible as possible. It also means ensuring that we are thoughtful and strategic as we look to apply 21st Century solutions to issues of the workplace.
As a way to identify these solutions and leverage technology to the Department's benefit, I agreed to chair an electronic government subcommittee of the President's Management Council. This provides DOL a government-wide voice to explore ideas and strategies that maximize the mission through technology.
To leverage technology at the 21st Century Department of Labor, we first must pull technology procurement out of what I like to call the primordial swamp. With the project management insight afforded by Earned Value Management and the purchasing power harnessed by SmartBuy, our IT investment dollars go further and deliver more capacity. Collaboration, consolidation, and interoperability at DOL lead us to reaching an Information Technology nirvana: simplicity. The winners? America's working families which is at the core of the President's Management Agenda.
We also continue to strive to make the Department's programs more transparent. At the end of this summer, 32 DOL programs will have been evaluated to date through the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) by which performance targets have been established to demonstrate quantifiable improvements each and every year. Complementing these performance targets is an agency improvement plan which establishes aggressive follow-up actions designed at improving program performance. The end of this process rightly turns back to the citizens we serve: all DOL PART ratings, improvement plans, performance targets, and details of each assessment are available on the ExpectMore.gov Web site for all to see.
Every day the Department of Labor redefines excellence as we build on our growing accomplishments and each and every employee plays an important role in working to meet our mission. Your commitment to public service is exemplified in the day-to-day work you do. And this annual Report to Employees is just one small way to say thanks for a job well done.
Enjoy reading about our collective accomplishments and I look forward to working with each of you to build upon these achievements in the months ahead.
Thanks for all you do,
Steven J. Law
Table of Contents
DOL Strategic Goals
DOL Mission: Foster and promote the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers' rights to safe and healthful working conditions; a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay; freedom from employment discrimination; unemployment insurance; and other income support.
The President's Management Agenda
The U.S. Department of Labor has always put an emphasis on sound management. It is only fitting, therefore, that when President George W. Bush introduced his Management Agenda (PMA) in 2002 that DOL eagerly began implementing its initiatives. As the "DOL President's Management Scorecard Trends" chart indicates, DOL quickly made progress in implementing the PMA initiatives. By the third Quarter of FY 2005, DOL became the first and only agency to achieve green status scores for all five government-wide initiatives. Of this achievement, OMB Deputy Director for Management, Clay Johnson, said, "both Federal employees and taxpayers win when agencies better manage their programs, people, and costs, and I congratulate the Department of Labor for leading this government-wide effort."
Implementing the PMA is not an end in itself. Rather, the PMA supports and advances DOL's mission and helps it to achieve its strategic goals. Giving the American People More for Their Money, the second annual report on the President's Management Agenda projects savings of between $50 and $100 billion each year by improving government performance and efficiency through implementing the PMA.
President's Quality Award
In December 2005, DOL was awarded the President's Quality Award for Overall Management. DOL is the first Department to achieve recognition in this top award category. The award is given "in recognition of agency performance in integrating their management systems under the five government-wide management initiatives." "The Department of Labor's approach to integration of all the President's Management Agenda initiatives throughout the Agency has resulted in sustainable and proven results and are worthy of this most prestigious recognition."
DOL Strategic Goals
Four strategic goals support DOL's efforts to achieve its mission.
In keeping with the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, by September 30, 2006, the Department of Labor will have published its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011. The published plan will express the vision of Departmental leadership, represent the work of agencies, and project DOL programs' results for the American public.
This initiative of the President's Management Agenda is intended to help agencies link human capital strategies to organizational mission, vision, core values, goals, and objectives. Several Department of Labor initiatives work toward this end.
Improving Access to Your Personnel Information Electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF)
The electronic Official Personnel Folder or eOPF allows employees to securely access their personnel folder from any DOL network computer connected to the Internet or from home. The eOPF provides employees with timely access to view and print their personnel documents. In addition, employees will be notified by email when personnel actions are added to their file, reducing the need to contact HR Offices for information. Finally, eOPF is a government-wide initiative, so your eOPF can be transferred more efficiently and accurately between Federal agencies should the need occur. Look for the eOPF after its planned rollout later this summer.
DOL's SES Appraisal System Leading the Way
In January 2006, the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget determined that DOL's Senior Executive Service (SES) appraisal system met the criteria for full certification for the 2006-2007 calendar years. DOL is the first Cabinet department to receive full certification which is premised on making clear distinctions in pay and performance recognition and on having an effective oversight system in place.
Full certification provides the Secretary the flexibility to set SES pay up to level II of the Executive Schedule $165,200 in 2006. This flexibility will further enhance the Department's efforts to attract well-qualified candidates for our SES vacancies. Additionally, the Secretary will be able to truly recognize those senior executives who have made the greatest contributions to their agencies when considering executives for performance-based pay adjustments following the end of the FY 2006 and FY 2007 rating cycles.
New SES Candidate Development Program Class in Place
Training tomorrow's executives today! DOL's successful SES Candidate Development Program recently welcomed its third class. Through intensive training and rotation experiences, this program provides a tailored approach to helping SES candidates develop their Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ's), which are the competencies and characteristics needed to build a Federal corporate culture that drives for results, serves customers, and builds successful teams and coalitions within and outside the organization. The five ECQ's are: Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, and Building Coalitions/Communications. When SES candidates complete the program, they submit their credentials to OPM to receive SES certification, and can be appointed to an SES position within the Federal government. To date, the program has placed 29 graduates in SES positions.
MBA Fellows Where are They Now?
DOL's successful MBA Fellows program welcomes its fifth class of 17 Fellows this summer, increasing the total to 76 participants. Of the 39 Fellows who have completed the program, 26 have been placed in permanent positions within the Department. Let's check in on some of the program's graduates to give you an idea of how the program has helped its participants develop professionally and how they, in turn, help the department to achieve its mission. Where are they now?
Linda Chambers MBA Fellows Class of 2005
Linda Chambers began her career with the U.S. Department of Labor on July 14, 2003 as a member of the second class of MBA Fellows at DOL. As an MBA Fellow, Linda gained experience and business acumen through rotational assignments with ETA/Youth Services (for which she recently received a Secretary's Award), ESA, and OASAM Office of Financial Management Operations. Linda's fourth and final rotation as an MBA Fellow was with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, where she ultimately received a permanent position as a member of VETS' budget team.
After successfully completing the MBA Fellows program and receiving a permanent assignment with VETS, Linda now serves as the Agency's Budget Officer. Linda is responsible for the coordination and functional oversight of VETS' budget formulation and execution processes, as well as the implementation of agency resource allocation and budget and performance integration strategies. She also serves as the Assistant Coordinator for VETS' emergency preparedness and Continuity of Operations Plan. Most recently Linda coordinated VETS' Combined Federal Campaign for which the Agency received the DOL CFC President's Award. Over the past year, Linda has also received an exemplary performance rating and a special act award for her service to VETS.
Linda has only good things to say of her experiences in the MBA Fellows Program: "The MBA Fellows program afforded me opportunities to learn through hands-on experience and real world challenges. I am grateful to DOL, the MBA Fellows program, and the many mentors and colleagues from whom I learned so much while on rotational assignment and here at VETS." Overseeing and Managing a $225 million budget: that's where Linda is now!
Karen S. Derringer MBA Fellows Class of 2005
Since completing the MBA Fellows program in 2005, Karen Derringer has been placed in a permanent position in the Enterprise Architecture Program in the Office of the Chief Information Officer Programs (OCIO). Karen's responsibility is to help DOL's Enterprise Architecture (EA) transition from its "current" to its "to be" state. In 2006, the Department submitted to OMB a Departmental Target EA and Target EAs for thirteen Agencies for which it received the second highest rating in the Federal government. In connection with this achievement, Karen was part of the team that received the Secretary of Labor Honor Award for Enterprise Architecture in 2006.
The skills Karen acquired in the MBA Fellows program have also helped in her service as the E-Gov Coordinator for the semi-annual Internal PMA E-Government Review of 14 DOL Agencies. This semi-annual review looks at how Agencies are managing their IT investments in four areas: Mission Alignment, Enterprise Architecture, Security Compliance, and Project Management.
Karen also played a crucial role in the development of DOL's IT Strategic Plan for FY 2005-2009. This effort was led by a Working Group, comprised of representatives from DOL's 25 Agencies, Offices and Bureaus. The group met several times over the course of a year to discuss, debate and establish DOL's IT strategies for the next five years. Helping shape DOL's IT future: that's where Karen is now!
Of her experiences in the MBA Fellows Program, Karen says, "The Fellows program gave me a high-level perspective of the workings of the Department and of the Federal government in general. I learned about the Federal budget process and the interplay of politics and policy. In my rotation with ILAB, I learned about international labor standards and the work and technical assistance that ILAB does to help other countries strengthen their labor laws and policies. There is simply no substitute for the hands-on experience I gained in the Fellows program."
The Secretary's fourth strategic goal, A Competitive Workforce for the 21st Century also applies to DOL's workforce as with all our strategic goals, the Department practices what we preach. Competitive sourcing is designed to develop a competitive workforce by maximizing efficiency through public-private competition. Competitive sourcing encourages innovative solutions to find the most cost-effective level of high-quality service. The Office of Competitive Sourcing in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management provides centralized management and leadership to assist agencies throughout DOL in conducting competitions in accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular A-76, Performance of Commercial Activities.
The goal of competitive sourcing is to improve both the quality and value of services at our Department especially those that are not directly tied to a specific, mission-critical government activity. One of the most reliable methods to achieve performance improvements is through competition, regardless of whether the work stays in-house or is provided by contract. Agencies are responsible for conducting competitions in a fair, transparent and competitive environment, ensuring that no bias is present to favor a specific outcome.
The Department encourages the development of a government "most efficient organization" (MEO) to compete with bids which may be received from the private sector. The MEO is designed to find innovative solutions to existing work processes that can be made more efficient to improve the Department's chances of retaining the work in-house when competing against private sector firms.
Eleven competitions begun in FY 2005, involving 218 FTE, are now complete. In all but one of those competitions, the work was retained in-house, which means that the work continues to be performed by DOL employees. In its FY 2005 report to Congress on Competitive Sourcing Results, OMB estimates that on average, the government saves $23,000 for every FTE competed (net annual savings per FTE competed). The competition process generally results in savings, regardless of whether the performance decision is in favor of government employees or private sector employees.
For those employees who are impacted by competitive sourcing activities, Suzy Barker has been named DOL's Competitive Sourcing Placement Official. Her role is to provide guidance and to help place employees in new positions when necessary.
FY 2005 Competitions: Saving Taxpayers' Money
The availability of timely, accurate, and useful information is essential to any well-managed, effective organization. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) has devoted significant resources to secure the Department's achievement of excellence in financial management in the Federal Government. In FY 2005, the Department received its ninth unqualified audit opinion and its sixth Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR) Program Award from the Association of Government Accountants.
Improving financial performance is a continuous journey of gaining experience rather than a race to the finish line. Success in implementing innovative and cost effective financial performance strategies takes strong, sustained commitment from senior management. As fiduciaries of our government's resources, we must demonstrate to the American people that we are committed to effective stewardship of their dollars while delivering services to those in need.
Labor Executive Accountability Program (LEAP)
DOL's successes in improving financial performance include beginning the implementation of a new core financial management system Labor Executive Accountability Program (LEAP). LEAP will use managerial cost accounting information for decision-making and provide accurate and timely financial statements on a quarterly basis.
LEAP is a state-of-the-art Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) financial system and will supplant the Department's aging core accounting system (DOLAR$) with the latest release of Oracle Federal Financial's commercial off-the-shelf software. LEAP will transform activities from production-related to value-added financial analysis and realtime decision support, providing relevant information to managers to facilitate improved decision-making. It will also enable:
Currently, DOL's agencies operate in "silo-fashion," employing "in-house" systems that make information sharing and data reconciliation laborious, delaying the decision making process. LEAP will provide single-source, anytime, anywhere, real-time, and transparent financial management information, which managers and other users demand. LEAP teams are currently engaged proactively with DOL agencies to learn their requirements and ensure that the system meets executive and program managers' needs. A LEAP Laboratory and agency specific working sessions are now underway to bring a new and more dynamic future capability to DOL ensuring "the right information to the right people at the right time."
Cost Analysis Manager
Over the past fiscal year, the Department has also worked on enhancing its managerial cost accounting system, Cost Analysis Manager (CAM). CAM is a key tool for tying costs to performance as well as tracking and improving program performance. It improves accountability and transparency by showing the results for the tax dollars spent. In FY 2005, the Department reported in its Performance and Accountability Report the cost of its performance goals, and with the help of CAM the FY 2006 Report will indicate the costs, for several performance goals, down to the indicator level. The Department's success in implementing a Department-wide managerial cost accounting system was highlighted in the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) Survey of Managerial Cost Accounting Practices at Large Federal Agencies. In addition, the Department was praised for its efforts in making managerial cost accounting information readily available at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance, and Accountability, Committee on Government Reform on September 21, 2005.
E-Gov Travel 2006 Report to Employees
DOL is at the forefront of the federal government's efforts to implement the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS). The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is spearheading this initiative within the Department. As one of 24 government wide E-Gov initiatives, ETS will effectively reengineer the Federal government's travel process and facilitate a more efficient and streamlined approach to travel management operations. This end-to-end automated travel management service will allow travelers to make online travel reservations, electronically generate and submit travel authorizations/vouchers for approval, and effect automated reimbursement of travel expenditures. ETS is a web-based travel system that will be conveniently accessible from desktop and/or home computers, hotels, or any location that has Internet access.
The OCFO's E-Gov Travel Team is diligently working to ensure that the Department is on target to meet the September 30, 2006, government-wide ETS implementation date. Due to the success of DOL's deployment efforts, the OCFO's E-Gov Travel Team members were featured panelists at the "EGov Travel Best Practices" conference session at the 2006 government-wide National Travel Forum in Los Angeles, California.
The Department of Labor's Enterprise Architecture (EA) Program aligns all DOL Information Technology (IT) investments with the objectives set forth in the President's Management Agenda (PMA). This linkage enables the Department to fully support the strategic goals and vision of the Department and the Federal Government by facilitating the elimination of redundant systems, identifying opportunities for consolidation, transforming business operations and increasing collaboration. Select examples, in support of each PMA objective, are listed below:
Strategic Management of Human Capital
EA was used to identify standardization opportunities and facilitate interoperability across DOL Human Resources (HR) functions and systems.
Improved Financial Performance
The Financial Management Line of Business (FMLoB), which is co-chaired by the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Energy (DOE) will enable Department-wide visibility of the financial process and a link between finance and performance throughout the planning, analysis, reporting and management procedures. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is using EA to identify redundant financial systems throughout the enterprise for consolidation and business transformation.
Expanded Electronic Government
E-Judication will deliver Direct Services for Citizens by developing a onestop Web Portal for citizens and stakeholders who are involved in the appeals and adjudication process. This initiative was initiated by the DOL EA Program Office, which identified a common business need for all of the collaborating agencies.
Unified DOL Technology Infrastructure (UDTI) is a unified, end-to-end, IT service management initiative that consolidates the technology infrastructure acquired, deployed, and maintained at DOL. UDTI will result in millions of dollars in cost savings and/or cost avoidance.
Integration of Budget and Performance
The Department is using EA to drive improved budget decisions. Budget formulation will be determined by whether or not a proposed IT investment aligns with the DOL EA and whether or not there is an opportunity for technical component reuse. Furthermore, the Departmental Budget Center is using EA to identify redundant budget systems across all agencies. Thus, the Return-On-Investment (ROI) for the Departmental Electronic Budget System is 110% with an anticipated payback period of 3.8 years.
The efforts of the DOL EA Program have been assessed by OMB as being effective and DOL currently ranks second among 24 Federal agencies. This rating is also reflected in the PMA E-Government Scorecard and has contributed to maintaining our green status.
DOL Gets an A+ on Computer Security
DOL achieved a grade of "A+" on the 2005 Federal Computer Security Report Card. DOL ranked first among Cabinet departments and, along with five other Federal agencies, achieved one of the highest scores for computer and information technology security.
The report card, prepared by the House Committee on Government Reform, grades agencies based on computer security reports they provide to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. These security reports are required by the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). The committee reviews the results of the FISMA reports, identifies strengths and weaknesses in government information security, and explores reasons behind poor performance by some agencies. Overall, the committee's goal is to evaluate whether Federal computer operations are prepared for a major cyber-attack.
"The successes we have achieved to date can be attributed to strong oversight of department-wide security issues, cooperation at the agency IT senior management level, and collaboration through department-wide review boards," said DOL Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) Thomas Wiesner. Wiesner credited DOL's information technology professionals for their efforts in ensuring the Department's networks, which handle financial and other vital transactions and information, are secure.
DOL has an information technology budget of $455 million in Fiscal Year 2006 supporting 86 mission-critical IT systems as well as enterprise-wide information systems that leverage the department's resources, improve business efficiency and reduce redundancy.
Getting Our Dollar's Worth in IT Investments
In 2006, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is updating its popular IT Investment Management Quick Reference Guide. The Quick Reference Guide, which is widely used throughout the Department, details sound IT investment practices that will lead to successful IT investment. This guide walks the reader through DOL's IT Investment Management Framework, including the:
The Quick Reference Guide takes the complex and intimidating world of IT investment and presents everything a program manager will need to know in a way that is easy to understand.
The PMA's Budget and Performance Integration (BPI) initiative seeks to ensure that performance is routinely considered in funding and management decisions and that programs achieve expected results and work toward continual improvement. At DOL it has resulted in a gradual cultural shift that fosters a closer dialogue among program, performance, budget, and finance staff. It appears in performance standards across the Department tying personal goals to Agency performance goals. Two new areas of interest associated with the BPI initiative are the development of the Departmental E-Budgeting System and the Administration's ExpectMore.gov website.
Departmental E-Budgeting System (DEBS)
For those involved in the annual budget process, help is on the way. The Departmental Budget Center is developing the Departmental E-Budgeting System (DEBS) an initiative to automate the budget formulation process. Producing the internal DOL, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the President's and Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ) submissions is a chore. DEBS will allow budget analysts the ability to easily and electronically merge budget data with justification narrative using a web browser and familiar tools such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
Having completed a successful pilot project, DEBS is being used this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Veterans' Employment and Training Service, and the Departmental Management and Working Capital Fund. The expectation is that all Agencies will access the tool in time for the next budget lifecycle 2009.
Program Assessment Rating Tool
Over the last five years, almost 800 Federal programs including 28 at DOL have been assessed through the Administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART. Four additional DOL programs are now undergoing PART. The DOL PARTs completed to date account for more than 85 percent of DOL's budget. This year is the fifth year in a five-year PART schedule, and when this year's PART scores and ratings are published with the FY 2008 Budget, nearly 100 percent of the Federal budget including almost all of the DOL budget will have been assessed through the PART. DOL took the lead at the outset of the PART process in 2002, establishing a five-year PART schedule, with roughly 20 percent of the Department's agencies and programs assessed each year.
The PART consists of 25 questions about a program's performance, design and management. Once assessments are completed, programs develop improvement plans to address PART findings. DOL and its programs are held accountable for completing these follow-up actions through the President's Management Agenda Scorecard scoring. Until recently, if someone was interested in reviewing PART results, they would have to burrow down into the OMB web site only to find a document a government scholar would love to read. That all changed this February with the roll-out of ExpectMore.gov. ExpectMore.gov is a government-wide effort to encourage greater accountability for results and transparency in how taxpayers' money is spent. Launched with the release of the President's 2007 budget, ExpectMore.gov provides candid assessments of Federal programs in jargon-free language. For every program assessed, visitors can find a rating of performance, strengths and weaknesses, the program's improvement plan, and a link to the details of the program's PART assessment. A search engine allows visitors to compare like programs or readily access programs that share common features.
DOL Reporting Excellence
In April, for the fourth consecutive year, George Mason University's Mercatus Center rated the Department of Labor's Annual Performance and Accountability Report to be the best in the Federal government. The reports were judged according to how transparently an agency discloses its successes and failures; how well an agency documents the tangible public benefits it claims to have produced; and whether an agency demonstrates leadership that uses annual performance information to devise strategies for improvement. For the second consecutive year, DOL has also earned the Mercatus Leadership Award, which is given to the department or agency that demonstrates the greatest leadership in the use of performance information to drive improvement. Of this recognition, Secretary Chao said, "The Department of Labor is proud to again be recognized as a leader in accountability for results. Transparent reporting of public outcomes reinforces our commitment to citizen-centered government a primary objective of the President's Management Agenda."
20062011 DOL Strategic Plan
By September 30, 2006, the Department of Labor will have published its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2006 through 2011. A strategic plan serves as a roadmap for programs to define priorities, refine strategies, and measure performance. Federal Agencies must update their strategic plan every three years to meet the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. The published plan will express the vision of Departmental leadership, represent the work of agencies, and project the results of DOL programs for the American public.
The updated plan will also reflect our ongoing efforts to improve performance and planning throughout the Department. The plan will serve as the foundation for future Annual Performance and Accountability Reports and budgets. Its strategies, goals and indicators reflect best practices and lessons learned from the Program Assessment Rating Tool, the President's Management Agenda, and program evaluations. Strategic goals and performance indicators are more outcome oriented. Programs and strategies are more effectively aligned. The new plan aims to better communicate the Secretary's priorities to both DOL employees and the public.
The Department's Newest Agency Continues to Make a Difference!
Over the past five years, our Department has significantly expanded opportunities for partnerships with faith-based and community non-profit organizations (FBCOs) to better serve Americans in need. Critical to this effort is removal of any unnecessary barriers to the participation of small and faith-based organizations in DOL grants and programs, thus establishing a "level playing field" for all. The Department has also employed a wide range of grants, technical assistance and other tools to draw upon the unique strengths of FBCOs in efforts such as serving the unemployed and underemployed, aiding homeless and incarcerated veterans, helping ex-offenders transition from prison to work and reducing exploitative child labor abroad. A significant priority for DOL in the coming year is to build on its record of national achievement in strengthening partnerships between faith-based and community organizations and the workforce investment system at the state and local levels.
The size of many Federal grants puts them out of the reach of smaller FBCOs, so DOL's Center for Faith- Based and Community Initiatives (Center) worked with the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to create the "Grassroots" grants. These grants feature simplified application and reporting requirements, and allow DOL to draw upon the strengths of smaller organizations with significant potential to augment the workforce system. The substantial return for these modest investments prompted ETA to more than triple funding for "Grassroots" grants in 2006. The "Grassroots" solicitation in 2006 drew a record 556 applications.
More Than Grants
While a "level playing field" in the grants process is a key goal of the Initiative, much of the Center's work is focused on other means of working together. These include such activities as helping local Workforce Investment Boards expand networks of FBCO partners, providing technical aid to FBCOs in workforce related services, and linking relief organizations with the workforce system in hurricane-impacted areas. In 2005, DOL launched the SHARE Network, a Web based resource directory that enables the One-Stop Career System to refer clients to regional FBCOs for services it does not provide, while also equipping FBCOs to become remote "access points" to many of the core services available at One-Stops. Eight states currently participate in SHARE Network, and that number is expected to double by 2007.
Data show that two-thirds of the 680,000 prisoners released every year are rearrested within three years. DOL is committed to helping ex-offenders make a fresh start. Ready4Work, DOL's first re-entry pilot program, is in its third and final year and is showing promising preliminary results. In 2005, the Department launched the President's Prisoner Re-entry Initiative (PRI), awarding 30 grants to sites that will provide a wide range of transitional and employability services to ex-offenders returning to their communities. The Department of Justice is a partner in this initiative, providing pre-release mentoring to exiting prisoners.
Evaluation and Research
New FBCO partners have been among DOL's most effective partners and grantees in recent years. However, formal study of the unique contributions FBCOs make through their networks of dedicated volunteers, local cultural knowledge, community roots, and other distinctive's has been limited. The Center has engaged an aggressive research agenda that includes in-depth evaluation of DOL pilot programs and other efforts that include FBCOs. At present, five such evaluations are moving forward, including an expansive peer review of the DOL's re-entry pilot program, Ready4Work.
June 30th PMA Scorecard On the June 30th OMB Scorecard, DOL was upgraded to green status on its Faith-Based and Community Initiative Scorecard. Making a difference! Achieving green! Just another day in DOL's newest center.
Better managing the Department's properties is at the core the Federal Real Property Asset Management effort. This PMA initiative is intended to:
The Department's efforts in real property management have already yielded important benefits. Among the results already achieved within the past year are:
Better detecting and preventing improper payments to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently is the goal of the Eliminating Improper Payments PMA initiative. At Labor, developing strategies and the means to reduce improper payments is a matter of good stewardship. Accurate payments lower program costs. This is particularly important as budgets have become increasingly tight.
The Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA) defines improper payments as those payments made to the wrong recipient, in the wrong amount, or used in an improper manner by the recipient. The Department is required to identify its risk-susceptible programs, implement corrective action plans that include reduction and recovery targets, and report annually on improper payments made and actions taken to increase accuracy.
The Department has three programs classified as high risk for improper payments. Two are benefit programs, Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA); one is a grant program: Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
In FY 2005, the estimated improper payments for these programs were: $3 billion for UI benefits, $3.3 million for FECA benefits, and $7.9 million for WIA grants. Percentage wise, the UI program had an estimated overpayment rate of 9.46 percent. By comparison, FECA's overpayment rate was 0.13 percent, and WIA's was 0.21 percent.
Last fiscal year, the Department met its improper payments reduction and recovery targets for each of these programs. Labor's biggest success was in the UI program where improper payments were reduced by approximately $600 million. This represents a greater than 15 percent decrease in this program's improper payments from FY 2004 levels. This decrease was in part a result of a number of proactive actions that the Department took to reduce the incidence of improper payments.
In March 2004, the Department entered into an agreement with the Social Security Administration that enabled State UI agencies to cross-match UI claims information against social security records to verify a claimant's name, social security number, age, and amount of any pension received. This helps prevent UI payments to persons working under stolen social security numbers and helps determine the correct benefit amount for individuals receiving pensions. The Department provided funds to 39 States to implement this secure data exchange.
The Department also funded States to use data in the State Directories of New Hires to detect and prevent payments to beneficiaries who continue to collect despite having returned to work, which are a major source of recoverable improper UI payments. Employers report to the State Directory of New Hires newly hired and re-hired employees. Forty-two States are currently using the State Directory of New Hires to cross-match for UI purposes. This cross-match is estimated to have saved at least $150 million over the last two calendar years.
In addition, last year, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Employment and Training Administration initiated a UI pilot program in three States to determine how a cross-match between the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) data and State UI claimant data could help identify individuals no longer eligible to receive UI benefits. NDNH is a more comprehensive database than the one used at the State level by allowing access to a wider universe of employers, including Federal agencies and multi-state employers who report all of their new hires to a single State. Results showed that this cross-match approach had a significant impact on identifying improper payments. The Department has also provided States with funds to implement these national cross-matches. The Department expects 29 States to be using the National Directory of New Hires by the end of this fiscal year.
In FY 2005, the Department successfully estimated WIA's improper payments and error rate. Unlike other programs, WIA posed unique challenges to quantify its improper payments since it does not have data readily available that can be used to develop an estimate of improper payments. It has a complex funding stream that makes it very difficult to assess the improper payment rate at the beneficiary level. The Department provides WIA grants to States, cities, counties, private non-profits, and other organizations, and it relies significantly on single audits under the Single Audit Act to monitor funding to WIA grant recipients. Last year, the Department analyzed all available single audit reports to estimate WIA's improper payment rate. This validated the use of "questioned costs" identified in audits as a proxy for improper payments. We found that the total questioned costs for the WIA program was very low approximately $7.9 million for $3.7 billion in outlays in fiscal year 2005.
On March 9, 2006, the Department of Labor was praised for its efforts in reducing improper payments at a hearing before the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. While Labor was one of the first cabinet-level agencies to receive a "green" rating under the President's Management Agenda for eliminating improper payments, the Department must continually pursue and refine its efforts to ensure that the funds entrusted to its stewardship go to their intended purpose while exercising the greatest diligence to ensure that improper payments are not made.
Training, both internal and external, is a key factor in the success of any compliance assistance program. That is why, as part of an internal compliance assistance education effort, the Office of Compliance Assistance Policy (OCA) is developing an on-line training course that provides DOL employees the ability: (1) to understand the overall DOL organizational structure and the responsibilities of DOL enforcement agencies; (2) to identify DOL's major laws and the agency that administers or enforces each law; and (3) to use the Web-based DOL Resource Locator to answer questions from the public by referring them to the appropriate agency or compliance assistance resource.
DOL has many customers with diverse needs, concerns and questions. Often DOL employees, particularly compliance officers and investigators, are asked by customers about regulations or programs outside their expertise or their agency's jurisdiction. The new on-line training course will give all employees a more thorough background on DOL's regulations and programs so they may better serve the public. The training course consists of a number of questions that help increase the user's familiarity with DOL regulations, the agencies responsible for administering them and their related compliance resources. Users will be able to complete the course within an hour and the benefits to DOL customers are invaluable. Every DOL employee should have knowledge of the Department as a whole and its functions. This new training tool will provide that knowledge to DOL employees and increase the quality of service provided to DOL customers.
Many DOL enforcement agencies also provide external training to assist their customers in complying with DOL's laws and regulations. For example, DOL's Wage and Hour Division continues its formal relationship with Fresno City College's The Training Institute to provide training on several of its laws such as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The Training Institute is one of only three organizations certified to provide state-mandated English and Spanish language training on the laws applicable to farm labor contractors in California.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) provide extensive training for businesses, workers and other customers. Through the OSHA Training Institute, extensive training is available to Federal and state compliance officers, state consultants, and the private sector. The Biohazards course, for example, assists health and safety professionals with the recognition, evaluation, and control of occupational exposure to biological hazards.
MSHA works with the mining industry to conduct Job Task Analysis (JTA). For miners who may be assigned tasks with which they are unfamiliar, JTA serves as the basis for developing training related to the health and safety aspects of these particular tasks.
Another example of external training is the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) "Getting it Right" initiative which includes an ongoing series of educational seminars to help plan sponsors understand their benefit plan-related responsibilities to workers and retirees. The campaign targets small- and medium-sized employers, because they often have limited personnel and financial resources to devote to these issues. EBSA works with private partners (e.g., the Small Business Administration, the National Federation of Independent Business, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the Society of Human Resource Management) to promote these seminars around the country and to create additional training opportunities.
These are just a few examples of what DOL agencies are doing to provide training to their customers. With the increase in external training and the new internal training, DOL employees will be better able to serve their customers and help improve overall compliance with DOL's laws and regulations.
DOL Finds and Shares the "Key to Career Success"
On Labor Day, 2005 DOL, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, launched the nationwide "Key to Career Success" program. The "Key to Career Success" program is an aggressive outreach and education campaign to ensure that veterans and transitioning military personnel have access to the career tools they need to find and obtain good jobs with good wages and career pathways when they return home. The campaign is designed to connect veterans with a full array of the highest quality workforce services available at One-Stop Career Centers in their communities.
In addition to the comprehensive career guidance and employment and training services to veterans as they make important decisions about their future employment, the 3,500 One-Stop Career Centers also assist veterans in translating the valuable skills and training acquired during military service into civilian employment. A Key to Career Success Card, similar to the one pictured on this page, is provided to veterans to help them locate the nearest One-Stop Career Center in their local community. Each key card also lists the Department of Labor's toll-free help line 1-877-US2-JOBS (TTY: 1-877-889-5627) and America's Service Locator, www.servicelocator.org. The key card is designed to ensure that One-Stop Career Center staff immediately recognize veterans and ensure their access to the full range of employment and training services.
Over the past 5 months, the ETA call center has captured 179 "activities" for the key to career success campaign. These activities have resulted in 59 orders, for 1,342 copies of key cards, brochures, and Transition Assistance Program manuals. Additional requests have come directly to various ETA program offices. Octavia Shulman, an ETA employee who works on a daily basis with the campaign, stated: "I have personally filled orders for at least 2,000 cards for homeless veteran centers, the Alaska Department of Labor, and a military base. In the case of the military base, I was told that the service men were asking for them. In the case of Alaska and Utah, the states used them as large groups of service personnel came home at one time." Clearly, the campaign is growing as word continues to spread. ETA and VETS will continue to work collaboratively to ensure the broadest possible reach.
Vice President Addresses 2006 National Summit on Retirement Savings
Vice President Cheney discussed the importance of retirement savings in creating an Ownership Society, while Secretary Chao challenged delegates to develop strategies for enhancing retirement security at the 2006 SAVER Summit on Retirement Savings held March 1-2, 2006.
During the Summit Secretary Chao outlined President George W. Bush's agenda on pension reform and discussed the Administration's commitment to work with Congress to pass pension reform legislation that strengthens the funding of defined benefit pension plans, provides transparency of information for workers, and stabilizes the Federal pension insurance system. Secretary Chao also stressed the importance of access to professional investment advice to improve the choice, control and confidence workers have in their retirement saving plans.
Summit delegates explored the challenges to saving for retirement faced by low income workers, small business employees, new entrants to the workforce, and workers nearing retirement. Other featured speakers included Ben Stein, renowned actor, economist, and financial expert; the Honorable Donald L. Evans, chief executive officer of The Financial Services Forum and former Secretary of Commerce; U.S. Senator Charles Grassley; U.S. Senator Gordon Smith; and U.S. Representative Michael Oxley.
DisabilityInfo.Gov Receives Webmasters Gold Award
DisabilityInfo.gov, a comprehensive one-stop Federal Web site for disability related information and resources, operated by DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), has received the American Association of Webmasters (AAWM) 2006 Gold Award for outstanding design and quality of content.
With 21 Federal agencies contributing content to this Web site, DisabilityInfo.gov contains extensive, frequently updated information on a host of cross-cutting topics. Easy to navigate, DisabilityInfo.gov is organized by subject areas that include benefits, civil rights, community life, education, employment, health, housing, technology and transportation.
"DisabilityInfo.gov is an excellent resource for individuals, families, employers and caseworkers, offering them easy access to disability-related information," reports Assistant Secretary of Labor Roy Grizzard, who heads ODEP. "We are also pleased that more than 4,000 people a day from 180 countries visit the site and, to date, DisabilityInfo.gov has had more than 5.7 million visitors."
The AAWM Awards recognize webmasters and designers who have shown outstanding achievement in Web design, content and creativity. These webmasters and designers have spent considerable time building and creating their sites not just to benefit themselves, but to also make a positive contribution to the World Wide Web community by "Bringing The World Closer To Us," according to the Association's Web site.
Awards are nothing new for DisabilityInfo.gov, which won the Web Content Managers Best Practice Peer Award just last year. The Web Content Managers Forum is a peer group comprised of more than 900 Federal, state and local government Web managers.
REALifelines Helps Wounded Veterans Find Work
The Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) has launched REALifelines, a program supported by a Web site and a toll-free phone number, to provide employment assistance to veterans who were injured or wounded while on active duty. A key feature of REALifelines is the REALifelines Advisor; one of a series of online tools called elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses). The REALifelines Advisor offers one-on-one assistance through the department's state directors for Veterans' Employment and Training Service (DVETs). DVETs will help the transitioning service member or veteran find meaningful employment through the One-Stop Career Centers and/or arrange for assistance to help determine what services and programs are best suited for them.
The REALifelines Advisor can be found at www.dol.gov/elaws/realifelines.htm.
The President's High Growth Job Training Initiative Demonstrating Results
This Presidential initiative is a strategic effort to prepare workers to take advantage of new and increasing job opportunities in high growth, high demand and economically vital sectors of the American economy. The initiative has identified 14 fields that are projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries or are existing or emerging businesses being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new skills sets for workers. These fields include health care, information technology, and advanced manufacturing, which have jobs and solid career paths left untaken due to a lack of people qualified to fill them. The High Growth Job Training Initiative targets worker training and career development resources toward helping workers gain the skills they need to build successful careers in these and other growing industries. The Initiative is already demonstrating results.
ILAB's Chartbook Compares International Labor Data
In January 2006, DOL's Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) released "A Chartbook of International Labor Comparisons: The Americas, Asia, Europe." The chartbook provides comparable information that can be used to assess United States economic and employment performance relative to other countries. For the United States to continue to succeed in the global economy, it is important to understand the economic relationships that are transforming the world. Thanks to technology, the flexibility of our workforce, and the productivity of our workers, the U.S. has long enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world. To preserve these advantages, U.S. workers must have the skills necessary to compete in the worldwide economy of the 21st century.
By understanding how the United States compares with other advanced and emerging economies, our nation will be better prepared to take the steps necessary to ensure that our workforce and our economy continue to thrive and prosper. The Chartbook of International Labor Comparisons provides a comparative labor market perspective-including employment levels, jobless rates, hours worked, labor costs, and productivity trends.
As the charts reveal, the United States leads in many areas. This information provides a snapshot of where the U.S. stands today in relation to the world's key economies. It can assist policy and decision makers in charting a course that will help prepare our nation's workforce for the challenges of tomorrow.
OSHA Promotes Teen Summer Job Safety
In May 2006, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) kicked off its Teen Summer Job Safety campaign. Each summer millions of American teens work at summer jobs to help them earn extra money and gain valuable experience. While this is a wonderful American tradition, there are safety risks involved. OSHA is focusing on keeping these vulnerable workers safe and healthy.
Approximately 80 percent of U.S. teens work annually at some time during their high school years, many during the summer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004, more than 38,000 teen workers were injured on the job, and another 134 were fatally injured.
The Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign is a multi-year campaign that will focus on industries that young people are likely to work in during high school or college. This year's campaign theme is "Landscaping Plant Your Feet on Safe Ground."
As part of the campaign, OSHA developed a resource kit to educate young workers, parents, employers and educators on workplace safety. OSHA also developed a series of drop-in articles brief ready-for-publication articles that discuss common summer job hazards and injuries, and how to avoid them. The articles address working in the sun and heat, protecting against pesticide hazards, avoiding strains and sprains, and working safely in landscaping. Finally, video samples of landscaping safety tips a collection of safety demonstrations performed by high school students along with high-resolution photos for each demonstration, are available online in the OSHA Newsroom.
DOL Helps Employees Find Back Wages Due Them
The Employment Standard Administration's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has launched a new web-based Back Wage Employee Locator to provide easy and secure access for employees to find and collect back wages due them. Employees who have not been located by the department during the normal back wage disbursement process will be able to use this on-line system to determine whether they are owed back wages as a result of a WHD investigation.
The new back wage employee locator guides employees through an online series of questions that helps them determine if they are owed back wages as a result of a WHD investigation. The new system queries a database that contains information about people who are due back wages and their employment history. Employees should be ready to enter information about their past or present employment, such as the name and location of their employer. Those due back wages will be provided restitution upon verification of their identity.
"The U.S. Department of Labor is pleased to be able to implement this new locator program," said Alfred B. Robinson Jr., Acting Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "Although the Wage and Hour Division locates most of the employees due back wages, we expect this effort to facilitate payment to many of those employees that we have been unable to find."
This new electronic program is part of an ongoing effort at DOL to meet the e-government objectives of the President's Management Agenda. The back wage employee locator is accessible from the Wage and Hour Division's home page at www.wagehour.dol.gov or directly at https://www.dol-esa.gov/emploc/.
E-Judication Enabling a Transparent DOL Adjudicatory and Legal Process
In 2006 the U.S. Department of Labor launched the e-Judication Initiative, an e-Government effort that creates a comprehensive citizen- focused IT solution at the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) and the four adjudicatory agencies: the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), the Administrative Review Board (ARB), the Benefits Review Board (BRB), and the Employees' Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB). The focus of this Initiative is to provide improved, timely, and interactive adjudicatory services on behalf of the American workforce.
In order to achieve this objective, DOL has developed a new Web site offering a wide range of information on matters involving status of a case or an appeal, links to relevant statutes and case law, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding hearings and appeals at the Department. Furthermore, the e-Judication Web Portal is an invaluable source of Labor-related legal, regulatory, and procedural information.
Currently, the Web site, located at www.dol.gov/ejudication, is meant to introduce e-Judication and is informational in nature by offering the following additional highlights on one consolidated Web site:
E-Judication makes DOL's formal hearings and appeals more accessible and understandable for appellants, attorneys and other interested parties. The e-Judication team is in the process of charting a course for the next generation of case management. E-Judication will strive to simplify the delivery of services, accelerate case processing, reduce costs, and streamline all aspects of communication (Government to Citizen, Government to Business, and Inter-Organizational).
In the coming months and years, e-Judication will introduce new services to the public, such as electronic service of decisions, methods for checking on the status of a case, and electronic filing of documents.
VETS Protects the Reemployment Rights of America's Soldiers
On December 19, 2005 DOL published regulations to explain and clarify the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This is the latest in a series of proactive steps taken to ensure job security for the largest group of mobilized National Guard and Reserve service members since World War II. USERRA prohibits discrimination against past and present members of the uniformed services and establishes reemployment rights for service members who want to return to the jobs they held prior to service. Since Sept. 11, 2001, almost 530,000 citizen soldiers have been mobilized, and more than 390,000 of these National Guard and Reserve members have been demobilized.
The new regulations, drafted in an easy to read question-and-answer format, explain how USERRA protects against discrimination and retaliation because of military service; prevents service members from suffering disadvantages due to performance of their military obligations, and affords them ample time to report back to jobs following completion of their service obligations.
In addition to the regulations, the Department of Labor has taken other steps since September 11, 2001, to reduce the rate of USERRA complaints, including:
Secretary Chao highlighted the importance of the new regulations, saying "Our citizen soldiers put themselves in harm's way to defend our freedoms, and now it's our turn to be there for them....These regulations provide comprehensive guidance on USERRA, which works to preserve the seniority, promotion, health care, pension and other benefits of our citizen soldiers when they return home to the jobs they left to serve our country."
ETA Launches Wired Initiative
As part of the President's Competitiveness Agenda, unveiled during the State of the Union Address on January 31, 2006, DOL launched the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative. Through the WIRED initiative, DOL will invest $195 million in thirteen regional economies.
The goal of the WIRED initiative is to transform regional economies by enlisting the skills of the numerous and varied players in those economies to research and produce long-term strategic plans that prepare workers for high skill, high-wage opportunities in the coming years and into the next decade. Through the WIRED Initiative, Governors have a unique opportunity to design and implement strategic approaches to regional economic development and job growth.
"Many workers in the regions represented at this meeting have felt the results of dislocation and need to acquire new skills," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. "The WIRED initiative targets communities impacted by rapid change and works with them to re-skill their workforce so it becomes a beacon for economic development and new jobs."
The regions that competed successfully for the three-year, $15 million investments are: Coastal Maine, Northeast Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Piedmont Triad North Carolina, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Florida Panhandle, Western Alabama-Eastern Mississippi, North Central Indiana, Greater Kansas City, Denver Metro Region, Central and Eastern Montana and California Coast. Project Summaries for these regions are found at http://www.doleta.gov/ProjectSummaries.cfm
The next steps for the selected regions, include:
MINER Act Signed Into Law
On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act.
The MINER Act is the first revision to Federal mine safety laws since the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act became law in 1977. Some of the major provisions include:
Secretary Chao stated that the MINER Act "is the most significant mine safety legislation in nearly 30 years. It builds upon efforts by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to improve mine safety nationwide, and calls for the modernization of safety practices and development of enhanced communication technology. We need to do everything we can to continue to improve safety in our nation's mines so miners can return home safely to their families at the end of their shifts."
"Last week, I was in New Orleans with First Lady Laura Bush. We were there to announce a grant to the National Urban League to help at-risk young people in the Gulf region get job training and find jobs. While I was there, I also visited with the DOL employees in the area. And I was so impressed by what I saw they are doing a great job in some very challenging circumstances. I was especially moved by the fact that many of them are DOL employees from other parts of the country who have volunteered for assignments in the Hurricane impacted areas. They have a real passion about what they are doing. I am proud of them and all of you who made financial contributions and donated leave to help members of our own DOL family impacted by the Hurricanes."
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao,
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. 1836 people were killed and countless others were displaced. DOL played a crucial role in our Nations response to Hurricane Katrina. DOL helped in two different and very meaningful ways. First, DOL helped by sending more than 100 employees from around the country to join the volunteer effort. Second DOL helped through its programs.
Immediately following the storm, OSHA staff in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana activated response plans to help protect the safety and health of those involved in rescuing stranded citizens and starting recovery efforts in the area. Once the Gulf Coasts residents were out of imminent danger, one of their most pressing needs was employment. The Department and our employees played a central role in both of these efforts. Vignettes and journal entries included below recount four of our volunteers experiences and sentiments related to their work in the disaster area.
The programmatic response began even before Katrina hit land assessing response options and pre-positioning key personnel and resources for the disaster. This response continues to this day.
Within days of Katrinas landfall, DOL awarded up to $191 million to affected States, including both those States hit by the hurricanes and those hosting evacuees. The funds, from ETAs National Emergency Grant program, helped to create temporary jobs and employment and training assistance. These jobs put displaced people to work performing crucial disaster response , such as providing shelter, food, and clothing, and performing clean-up and restoration work. These jobs also provided short term training for vocational skills, which create new career pathways to help evacuees return to jobs in their community or where they choose to settle.
Katrina FEMA Volunteer Effort
"I remember watching the aftermath of the hurricanes on TV and thinking there must be something else I can do to help. When DOL asked for volunteers, I jumped at the chance. Little did I know what I was getting into. I pictured myself in a call center working normal business hours. What was I thinking?
I was assigned to a Disaster Recovery Center (DRCs) in Orleans Parish (New Orleans). My job was to meet applicants and process applications for FEMA benefits. We worked long hours from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm seven days per week and saw 300-400 people per day. It was absolutely heart breaking to hear all the stories from people who lost everything. Even though they came to the DRC to gain access to benefits, I had the impression that for many talking about their challenges and sharing their stories was just as important.
In addition to the satisfaction I felt at being able to serve and to
help those in need, I will remember most the touching stories about wonderful
people who opened their homes to neighbors and friends. I feel great
appreciation to the Department for giving me the opportunity to contribute and
to my fellow workers who carried on at home. I will never forget this
experience and the wonderful feeling of helping others."
"There were many reasons why I wanted to volunteer for the disaster relief effort, but mostly I wanted to personally assist in anyway I could the people affected by both hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I was assigned with the FEMA Joint Field Office (JFO) in Montgomery, Alabama. My assignment was to be a leasing agent for evacuee temporary housing.
My specific task was to assign trailers to survivor families according to family size, provide them with household items and give them contact information for relief agencies. I also provided as much assistance with their personal needs as possible under the circumstances. I inspected each trailer prior to occupancy for cleanliness and adequate operation of all appliances. Once a family moved in, I would check with them to make sure they had everything they needed.
One experience I had in Wind Creek State Park, the largest park in
Alabama, will stick with me the rest of my life. Late one Saturday evening,
just as we (I and three other volunteers) were leaving the park, a caravan of
four vehicles pulled up. When the occupants realized we were relief volunteers,
some of them got out of their cars and started crying and hugging us. They were
three generations of a family, and they had been traveling for three days. We
immediately assigned trailers to these tired folks and gave them some food and
other necessary items. It was very fulfilling to help three generations of a
family to get started on their way back to recovery."
"Yesterday was a gratifying endeavor. We performed door to door community relations efforts in Vidor, TX. Residents were, for the most part, extremely warm and appreciative of any assistance that we could give. Our job was to make sure that the residents knew how and where to obtain assistance. While the benefits were important, mostly, these people just wanted to talk to someone about their experiences. Many invited me in to share their stories and then thanked me for listening when I left.
Everyone is here to help the victims and also to assist each other so we
can do our part in the relief effort. It's like one big community with the same
objective. There are hundreds of volunteers from all over the country in our
four-county location alone. We have firefighters, FEMA employees, state
employees, Red Cross workers and volunteers, and faith based organizations. I
am grateful for this opportunity, and I am happy to help."
After Hurricane Katrina hit, one of the first field visits I made was to
the Baton Rouge Convention Center to establish contact with the Red Cross.
Seeing thousands of my fellow citizens sitting on floors and cots, and waiting
in long lines for medical attention really affected me. I wanted to make a
contribution somehow, someway. Working for OSHA in the response and the
recovery allowed me to fulfill that desire. We were protecting workers and
others in a non-traditional, but very effective way. Everywhere we went, we
were well received. Early on, we went into parishes where the citizens had not
seen any other government agency. The citizens were as hungry for information
as they were for food. Our teams would pass out their own water, personal
snacks, and whatever was available for them to supply.
Katrina Programmatic Response
DOL program staff heeded President Bush's call to provide services to Katrina evacuees. Immediately after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast Region in August and September, the Employment and Training Administration's (ETA) Office of Workforce Security (OWS) began working closely with ETA Regional Staff in Dallas and Atlanta and the States of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi to facilitate processing and payment of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) claims. Both national and regional staff provided onsite assistance to Louisiana and Mississippi.
Appropriately, Labor staff spent Labor Day working and assessing the needs of the affected States. The extra effort by DOL employees resulted in an expedited award of the additional funds these states would need to manage the extraordinary expenses resulting from the hurricanes. These funds are being used to rebuild infrastructures and facilities and to deploy mobile units. OWS staff also coordinated with other Federal agencies to provide assistance, working with both FEMA (which provides DUA's funding) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure individuals could obtain the necessary documentation to establish proof of employment for DUA claims.
A number of positive outcomes surfaced from the waning tidewaters of devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There are now Unemployment Insurance call centers in the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, where there previously were none. DOL purchased technology which has expedited faster processing of both UI and DUA claims and transferred many recipients from the old, paper-based UI checks to the much more convenient and rapid debit cards and direct deposits. DOL promoted the states' implementation of the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), which reduced the potential for fraud and abuse of UI and DUA funds.
Business Relations Group
The twin blows from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have stretched the capacity of the public workforce system not only in the hardest-hit areas but also in sites across the United States that have housed and provided basic needs for large numbers of evacuees. More than 250,000 individuals filed for Unemployment Insurance within a month of the first hurricane.
Faced with these unprecedented worker dislocations, the Employment and Training Administration's Business Relations Group (BRG) has played a lead role in coordinating the Department's outreach with businesses and associations that are responding with recruitment, training, and direct assistance.
The BRG coordinated immediate outreach to ETA's national business partners, High Growth grantees, and additional stakeholders-and followed up continually with information on ETA activities, Web postings, and interdepartmental notices of interest to employers. Many of the national business partners posted job openings on the Department's Hurricane Job Recovery Site. In addition, the BRG provided technical assistance and customized solutions to national business partners.
The BRG became a central information source for businesses and individuals contacting DOL, as well as for agencies ranging from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Department of Homeland Security. The BRG developed response templates and information fact sheets to provide solutions based assistance to those contacting the Department. The BRG also became a source of data on state and local workforce activities; information on job fairs and other workforce activities. These resources became a valuable outreach tool to employers about recruitment opportunities.
During the outpouring of response and cooperation, more than 100 employers and associations started new relationships with the BRG. These new contacts formed the basis of additional outreach regarding the public workforce system and the value of partnerships beyond immediate hurricane response. Some of these connections, as with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), have led to significant partnership activities with potential benefits throughout the public workforce system.
DOL Helps Evacuees Find "Pathways to Employment"
The "Pathways to Employment" initiative has helped evacuees and other survivors of the recent hurricanes find employment and training opportunities. "Pathways to Employment" provides targeted assistance to people based on individual needs, through the nationwide network of 3,500 One-Stop Career Centers located across the country.
The initiative provides individualized counseling and assistance to hurricane survivors to help them get back on their feet. The multi-prong approach includes (1) deploying experienced career counselors to evacuee centers and other relocation centers where there's a concentration of evacuees, (2) deploying specially-trained experts who help people with disabilities find employment opportunities and needed services, and (3) providing 4,000 Job Corps positions to young people impacted by the hurricanes who need a fresh start.
To assist individuals with disabilities, DOL has deployed additional Disability Program Navigators (DPNs) in hurricane-affected states. DPNs are trained individuals experienced in working with persons with disabilities to make employment connections through the One-Stop system and connect to needed benefits and services through the government or community organizations.
DOL's national Job Corps program is expediting enrollment and transfers of young people affected by the hurricanes. Job Corps has provided education, room and board for up to 4,000 economically disadvantaged young people ages 16 through 24.
Hurricane Recovery Job Connection Web Site
This new Web site resource is focused on supporting the transition back into employment for individuals impacted by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. The site's purpose is to connect job seekers with employers for either new permanent employment or for jobs related to the clean-up, recovery and rebuilding process in hurricane-impacted areas. While the site is intended to complement efforts at the state and local levels, it is also intended to make individuals evacuated to other states aware of opportunities in their home state.
The site allows employers to post jobs and job seekers to search for job opportunities and post their resumes:
BLS Geocoded Data Helps DHS Present Options to the President
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, DHS was tasked with developing a plan to rebuild the devastated Gulf Coast region. Becca O'Brien, Director of Policy & Research at the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, asked BLS to provide data to aid in assessing the cost-effectiveness of protecting various areas around New Orleans. Using geocoded data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, in which businesses were assigned detailed geographic coordinates, BLS provided Becca with the special tabulations she requested in less than one day. That same evening, at a meeting at the White House, these measures were used in making decisions that impact the future of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Said Becca, "Our decisions would certainly not have been as well informed without these data." BLS also worked closely with mapping experts in California and with the Louisiana Department of Labor to make these tabulations and clear their release.
OSHA Katrina Response
OSHA helped prepare for Hurricane Katrina well before it touched down. In July, as the hurricane season began, OSHA issued a press release alerting the public to the dangers associated with cleanup and recovery from hurricanes. We highlighted OSHA's "Natural Disaster Recovery" web page which provided fact sheets and other technical assistance related to the hazards encountered in hurricane response. In addition, within two days of the storm's landfall, OSHA issued radio public service announcements in English and Spanish to remind people that the dangers presented by the storm include the safety and health hazards associated with the cleanup.
Throughout the response, OSHA's local offices remained open for business and its call center was operational. Today, OSHA is well on its way to completing work to develop operational procedures to improve the Federal government's capability to quickly gather environmental data and to provide the public and emergency responders the most accurate information available, to determine whether it is safe to operate in a disaster environment or to return after evacuation. This planning includes pre-disaster identification of potential hazards to inform out-of-area responders.