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FOREST CITY | The changes being made by the Iowa Workforce Development region is a point of concern for the members of the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors.

Winnebago County Board of Supervisors Chairman Terry Durby discussed the changes sent to the board Feb. 22, during the open forum at the supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

The new changes will decrease the number of local workforce development areas (LWDA) from 15 to six regions, putting Winnebago and Hancock counties in with 18 other counties, including Dubuque, Black Hawk and Allamakee counties.

“We’re in a very large region that looks similar to our county regions for mental health,” Durby said.

According to a letter sent to the board from Beth Townsend, director of the Iowa Workforce Development, these changes were caused by the U.S. Department of Labor’s monitoring of Iowa’s progress in implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in October 2017.  The report indicated the local areas were not aligned appropriately to meet the substantive requirements of an LWDA.

The 15 local areas were originally established in 1982 under the Job Training Partnership Act as service delivery areas.

“These SDAs were formed to align with service delivery in the State and, in Iowa, this resulted in areas being formed around the Community College locations throughout the State,” Townsend wrote. “Subsequent workforce development legislation, first the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and, most recently, WIOA, allowed for existing service areas to continue to serve as local areas, with only minimal qualifying criteria.”

The problem is the LWDAs were intended by the WIOA to be aligned with local labor market areas and economic development areas, not community colleges.

Additionally, with the limited WIOA funds, division among 15 areas in a state comprised mostly of rural areas is “stretching the available administrative dollars so thin the local areas are unable to fund core WIOA functions, such as staff support to perform the required work of the Local Workforce Development Boards and/or the On-Stop Operators,” Townsend wrote.

Because of this, a subcommittee of the State Workforce Development Board was assembled in early 2018 to make a recommendation on the number and configuration of regions so that Iowa can meet the financial requirements of WIOA while maintaining the current level of service provided to the citizens of Iowa.

With the new six-region configuration, Region 2, which contains Winnebago and Hancock counties, will receive an estimated funding of $1,758,411 in total program dollars and $195,380 in Title I Admin dollars for a total of 18.65 percent of the funds.

However, because three of the regions now contain 20, 24 and 25 counties, the problem of votes and control arises, which is already a serious problem with the mental health regions set up the way they are, according to the board of supervisors.

“It’s centralization. That’s all it is,” Supervisor Mike Stensrud said.

“So long as they have full control, you can have home rule,” Durby said.

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