LIHU‘E — The Office of Economic Development (OED) will receive another round of federal funds, $310,173, for its Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act (WIOA) program for Plan Year 2020-2021, which was approved unanimously last Wednesday by the Kaua‘i County Council.
The county’s Managing Director Michael Dahilig said the WIOA is a federal program administered by the State of Hawai‘i. Every year, the State commits specific funding based on a federal formula to the island of Kaua‘i.
According to Dahilig, for the Program Year 2019, which occurred from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2021, the WIOA-Kaua‘i was funded with $271,669.
In a memorandum received the council in early February, OED Director Nalani Brun requested approval for the Plan Year 2020-2021, with a one year cap, which the United States Department of Labor allocated $81,505 for the Adult Program, $111,879 for the Dislocated Worker Program, $85,773 for the Youth Program, and $31,016 for Administrative Costs.
Brun pointed out that the majority of the administrative funds will be used to pay for an accountant.
Dahilig said the County of Kaua‘i has worked in partnership with the State of Hawai‘i to help utilize these funds.
A vast majority of the funds ultimately go to the Workforce Development Division, another state agency that facilitates the job searches through the American Job Center.
If there are leftover funds from the last two years, Dahilig said the County retains the remainder for minimal administrative costs and provides the office space virtually rent-free to the state.
“To prepare for the upcoming federal funding cycle, we are asking the council for approval to start the process of negotiation,” Dahilig said. “We appreciate the state’s partnership over the years and we look forward to seeing what is next for its WIOA program on Kaua‘i.”
At the meeting, Dan Fort, WIOA’s director, said the WIOA is operated in the American Job Center, which is located next to the driver’s licensing bureau, which he explained in detail what benefits the unemployed individual could receive from the program.
“We have a counselor that meets with adult and dislocated workers and gets them services,” Fort said last Wednesday “We open up individual training accounts for each individual that is served.”
Fort said part of the individual training account allows a certain amount of money to be spent on them for education for some stipends, if they need assistance, getting to a job, a bus stipend and clothing allowance to dress nicely for an interview.
According to Fort, the OED has to spend the funds within two years of receiving them, however, they normally spend it within a year.
“Last year, we didn’t have a U.S. service provider, so that money had to be returned back,” Fort said. “But other otherwise than that, we were allowed two years to expand the Plan year 2019 amount of money which were close to its spending June 30 of this year.”
Councilwoman Felicia Cowden said she believed the amount was smaller than the actual needs of Kaua‘i’s unemployed individuals.
Fort claims over the years, the county had a very low unemployment rate, which dropped down to 2.7%.
“They were awarding to each state and to each county as an example of this year, with our high unemployment rate, and the amount of dislocated workers that we are seeing the money has gone up,” Fort said. “So previously, in 2019, the money that was set aside for dislocated workers was less than $50,000. This year, it’s close to $100,000.”
Source: The Garden Island