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In December 2016, Rhode Island’s Governor’s Workforce Board passed a new policy clarifying the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)’s definition of “dislocated worker.” Under this new definition, the state estimates that more than twice as many dislocated workers will be eligible to receive services paid for by federal grant funds already awarded to the state. The state will use unemployment insurance (UI) records and labor market information (LMI) to determine whether workers are dislocated.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of Sector Partnership National Emergency Grants (SP NEGs) to help develop sector strategies to enhance services for dislocated workers. Although Rhode Island was awarded a SP NEG grant for its Real Jobs Rhode Island sector partnership, the state had difficulty using those funds to provide services to dislocated workers. That’s because the state couldn’t easily get the participant labor history information it needed to determine if each participant was, in fact, a dislocated worker. Many participants were served outside the One-Stop system (the entities that typically collect this information), and others had a hard time providing accurate and detailed information about their employment history.
However, Rhode Island’s new dislocated worker policy no longer requires the state to collect documentation from participants to prove dislocated worker status. The new policy allows the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to access the worker employment information it already has, in the form of UI records. Under the new policy, if a worker has received UI compensation in the past, the state will compare the participant’s current earnings to the average earnings someone in their industry would have made had they not been dislocated. The state determines projected earnings by utilizing LMI. If the worker is earning less than projected, that participant is considered dislocated, and eligible to be served using federal SP NEG funds.
Moving forward, the state hopes to automate this calculation, and to use data from UI records to automatically populate federally required reporting templates.
Rhode Island’s new dislocated worker policy was created by a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, and Brown University’s Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab (RIIPL), which aims to help state agencies create evidence-based policies.