Reconnecting to Reemployment Services: A Look at U.S. Department of Labor’s REA Initiative
By Susan Pines
As state unemployment insurance (UI) systems became highly automated through the phone and Internet, UI claimants became less aware of the free government-sponsored services, such as assessments, resume assistance, and interviewing workshops, at their local One-Stop Career Centers. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) began an initiative to better meet the reemployment needs of claimants, to connect them to One-Stop Career Centers, and to assess their ongoing UI eligibility. Called Reemployment and Eligibility Assessments (REA), this program now is saving money for the UI system and helping claimants find work faster. REAs provide claimants with in-person reemployment assistance at American Job Centers (the new name for One-Stop Career Centers), plus include an unemployment benefits eligibility review to prevent improper payments.
UI claimants who participate in the REA program receive the following:
Labor market information
Referral to reemployment services or training
Assistance in developing a reemployment plan.
“By conducting personalized reemployment assessments for UI claimants, states have reduced the time a person stays on UI, helped them connect to their next job more quickly, and decreased the rate of improper payments made to ineligible claimants,” according to Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration. The DOL has budgeted $75 million for REAs in 2013, up from $18 million in 2005. Forty states now run REA programs for UI claimants.
In addition, all states provide REAs to Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) recipients—the long-term unemployed— to speed their return to work. As part of their REAs, EUC recipients obtain labor market and career information, a skills assessment, an orientation to American Job Center services, and an in-person review of their EUC eligibility and job-search activities.
REAs are grounded in practices that began in the 1940s and that required UI claimants to provide information on their work searches. By the late 1960s, research projects were testing combinations of UI eligibility review and job services. In the 1970s, the research findings became part of the program that helped states develop sound UI eligibility review processes, which are still critical today.
Studying REA Effectiveness
Two rigorous IMPAQ International studies for the DOL—one published in 2011 and the second published last year—focus on the effectiveness of REAs. In the first analysis, IMPAQ used random treatment and control groups in the states studied to measure REA impact. The treatment group members were required to participate in REAs. The control group members did not participate in REAs. The study determined that
REAs helped claimants avoid exhausting regular UI aid.
REAs helped claimants exit the UI program sooner than they would have otherwise.
Nevada’s REA program was the most effective one among the studied states.
In the second study, which focused on Nevada, IMPAQ determined that the state’s REA claimants had 3.13 fewer weeks of total UI duration compared to individuals in the control group, saving $873 in benefits payout per treatment group member. This amount exceeded REA costs by more than four times.
“REA treatment group members were nearly 20 percent more likely than their peers to obtain employment in the first two quarters after program entry,” states the Nevada report.
Combining Reemployment Services with REAs
Of the states studied, Nevada was the only one at the time to provide reemployment services (RES) by the same staff person as part of the REA interview. IMPAQ believes this approach led to the greater effectiveness of Nevada’s REA program. “REA interviewers in Nevada can both conduct the REA interview and provide the claimant with relevant reemployment services,” states IMPAQ’s findings. “During an initial REA interview meeting, for example, Nevada staff often spends part of the session as an REA interviewer, then as an RES counselor.”
Employing Best Practices in REA Programs
IMPAQ also identified REA best practices, which increase claimants’ connection to American Job Centers and use of services. Among the best practices are referring claimants to targeted reemployment workshops and using rigorous assessments to identify employment barriers.
“A number of states currently use self-assessment forms within their REAs to gauge the claimant’s emotional, financial, and physical state,” explains IMPAQ. “Perhaps the most innovative self-assessment form is the Layoff-to-Employment Action Planner (LEAP) form….It assesses individuals in eight areas….Use of the LEAP form differs by local office.…At the Reno JobConnect, for example, the REA interviewer requires each claimant to fill out the LEAP form before the REA interview, and then reviews the claimant’s scores, to alleviate some of the issues that had been raised while also referring him/her to available services.”
TheLEAP was developed through a process of research, review, and pilot testing. After studying the vast literature about dislocated workers, the editors at Career Action Resources drafted the LEAP, which was reviewed by unemployed workers and workforce professionals. In addition, the LEAP was pilot tested with laid-off manufacturing workers. Based on feedback, the LEAP was fine-tuned, professionally designed, and printed.
Obtaining Face-to-Face Help for Reemployment
While technology creates constant connectedness, reconnecting UI claimants to reemployment services through face-to-face interaction is getting today’s unemployed back to work more quickly.
You can learn more about REAs by reading IMPAQ’s complete studies:
Susan Pines has 15 years of experience as a writer, editor, and publisher in the career and workforce development field. She has led the creation of many career and job search assessments, books, and other resources while working with some of the nation’s most respected career experts. She is now publisher at Career Action Resources, LLC, developer of the Layoff-to-Employment Action Planner (LEAP), which is described in this article, and Your Employment Search (YES), a job-search readiness tool. Career professionals can receive LEAP and YES samples by emailing info@CareerActionResources.com. The samples are sent via First-Class Mail, so please include your organization name and mailing address. Visit www.CareerActionResources.com for more information.