by Tim Theberge, Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance

States are required to provide Rapid Response and appropriate career services under WIOA to workers when a Petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance is filed on their behalf. The requirement exists regardless of the size of the layoff and regardless of whether the group of worker is ever certified under the TAA Program. The origin of the requirement dates back to 1985. How are we doing on that requirement? We're not entirely sure... yet.

Congress passed the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) in December 1973 - the precursor to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). A year later, we would have the Trade Act of 1974, the cornerstone of our current TAA Program. Both of these programs represented a significant shift in the operation of job training programs by providing significant more control of workforce development programs to the states – although the Trade Act reserved more control for the Secretary than under CETA. The federal role in job training, dramatically reduced by CETA, was further reduced in 1982, when Title I of CETA was replaced by Title II of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). JTPA also directly involved in the private sector in the strategic direction of the state and local programs through what were then called Private Industry Councils – now known as Workforce Development Boards. Importantly, in 1985 then Secretary of Labor, William E. Brock, appointed members to the Task Force on Economic Adjustment and Worker Dislocation. The efforts of this Task Force resulted in the ultimate passage of the Economic Dislocation and Worker Adjustment Assistance Act of 1988 (EDWAA), which emphasized the importance of early Rapid Response in limiting the debilitating effects of worker dislocations, and designated the state’s dislocated worker unit as the recipient of written notices filed pursuant to the WARN Act – and (important for this blog) required states to provide Rapid Response services to groups of workers for whom a Petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance was filed.


JTPA was followed by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and later by WIOA – both of which continued the state and local control over the workforce system. However, and this is key, despite significant state and local control over the design of these systems, there are still some required activities that are not optional – the provision of Rapid Response to groups of workers for whom a TAA Petition is filed is one of these non-optional services. The Trade Reform Act of 2002 added an additional requirement that states also provide, “appropriate core and intensive services,” under WIA to groups for whom a Petition was filed.


During my years in the Regional Office, it became clear that there was a disconnect between the requirements of the Trade Act and the state and local control of the system under WIA and WIOA. In many states, Rapid Response activities were almost exclusively tied to receipt of a WARN Act notice. Without a notice, Rapid Response was not activated. The Trade Act requires the provision of these services regardless of the size of the layoff. Over the past few years, the Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance has focused on the provision of Rapid Response services through analysis of reporting data via the Trade Adjustment Assistance Data Integrity (TAADI) measures. As a result of those efforts, we’ve seen a great improvement on the reported receipt of Rapid Response services. We are now starting to turn our attention towards the provision of the requirement to provide, “appropriate career services.” Although this one is a little harder to get at through the data, the initial look is less than promising. Data suggests that fewer than 10% of trade-affected workers are receiving these services. Is it a reporting issue? Is it a weakness in reporting requirements? We’ll be exploring this topic over the next year. Why? Because the data clearly shows two things: 1) the longer someone is unemployed, the more likely they are to stay unemployed, and 2) the sooner a worker is enrolled in workforce development services the better their post-program outcomes are. If the provision of Rapid Response service and appropriate career services can reemploy a worker before they ever enroll in the TAA Program, that is a successful outcome for the workforce system – and a great outcome for the worker. So, what say you? Are states providing these services but not reporting them? Is there a flaw in the reporting requirements that doesn’t allow us to measure this? Something else? We’re hoping to find out and we’ll need you to help us do that.



Practitioners’ Guide to Rapid Response (ETA)

Rand Corporation: The New Fiscal Federalism and the Social Safety Net - A View from California (1996)