When it comes to understanding WIA grants, or WIOA grants, the key word to keep in mind is relocation. Under these grant programs, money is provided by the federal and state government to help workers who are losing their jobs to relocate to new types of jobs or to relocate to new locations. On the federal level, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was replaced by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). Some states still use the WIA name in their programs, while others have renamed their programs to WIOA.
Workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own may apply for the WIA grant.
Both the WIOA and WIA revolve around the needs of businesses and workers. Businesses require employees with skills that can be used in today's economy and often have a difficult time finding them. On the other side of the same coin, there are many unemployed workers who are eager to find a job, but don't have the skills employers need.
The role of the WIOA and WIA programs is to give unemployed workers the training needed to acquire those skills. Eligibility, however, is available only to those workers who have lost, or are about to lose, their jobs through no fault of their own.
While state programs vary, the majority of WIA and WIOA programs are designed to assist unemployed workers. Generally speaking, you are eligible to apply for federal WIOA support if you lack skills that are in demand by employers and if you are unemployed, or about to become unemployed, because of any of the following:
- A presidentially-declared national disaster
- A shift in production to Canada or Mexico by your employer
- Current conditions that make it unlikely you can return to your previous occupation
- A general decline in economic conditions.
State programs have the same requirements, however, they may supplement these requirements with others. For example, in Ohio, young adults between 14-24 may be eligible for that state's WIOA programs if they are homeless, foster children, need a high school diploma, are pregnant or fulfill other similar requirements.
Unemployed workers may be eligible for financial assistance as they enroll in short-term, approved educational training programs. However, Workforce Investment Act grants are usually limited to the cost of tuition and books, rather than to pay for living expenses. Another reason for offering workers grants is to pay for relocation costs in addition to training if they need to be relocated from a federal disaster zone.
In the majority of cases, because they are only recently unemployed, workers are eligible for unemployment benefits. They will continue to receive these benefits as they complete their training.
Businesses can play an important role in WIA and WIOA programs. If you own a company and you can offer on-the-job training to workers who need new skills, you may be able to enroll your company in programs in your state. The mechanics of this vary by state, but programs include such things as paying a portion of a new employee's wages if you are providing needed training.
States sometimes ask for applications from businesses for specific projects that relate to their WIA or WIOA programs. In Illinois, for example, the Department of Commerce is looking for plans to assist in its Workforce Plan for integrating workforce, education and economic development services as part of its WIAO implementation.
Another way businesses can benefit from WIA or WIOA programs is if they are laying off employees. In this case, state representatives may be able to come to the workplace to assist employees who are going to be let go to help them to update their resumes, help them apply for programs and to give them personal guidance through the transition.