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The Workforce Investment Act: What's Covered, and How Can it Help You?

Nov 6, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was executed during Bill Clinton’s second term in office, in 1998. Designed to replace the Job Training Partnership Act, it was designed to provide incentives for businesses to participate in delivering workforce development services at the local level.

The WIA is a Federal grant that pays for job training expenses for those who have been laid off from work, or who live at or below the Federal poverty level. Businesses administer workforce programs in partnership with local and state government, providing input, equipment and feedback to help design workforce training programs that develop the skills they need in the job force.  The training programs are administered locally, because local business needs are best understood at the local level.

At the WIA’s One Stop Workforce Centers, built throughout the US, workers are able to be assessed to determine their existing skill levels and service needs; get information on local education and training programs and other services; get help filing claims for unemployment insurance; and find out whether they’re eligible for job training funded by the WIA. You should also get assistance in job placement as well as comprehensive listings of job vacancies in your field.

Workforce Investment Act Funding: Eligibility


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The Workforce Investment Act covers job training for a wide variety of certifications, from medical billing to web design. Not everybody is eligible for funds, however.

Because WIA services are administered on the state and local level, the requirements may vary depending on where you live. But here are a few overall guidelines that many states follow.

Basic eligibility

Before meeting any other criteria, workers have to be at least 18 years old (to receive adult services, unless you’re a dislocated worker, in which case there is no age criteria) or 14 to 18 years old (to receive youth services). They need to be a US citizen or a non-US citizen with authorization to work in the US. Men need to have met Military Selective Service registration requirements.

Adults and dislocated workers

Different levels of services are available to different worker populations. Everyone can use the WIA’s self-service programs, where they can check out workforce center websites or visit centers in person to access information on job listings and apply for jobs.  You have to pass through each stage without getting a job—self service, self-assisted services with some staff help, et cetera—to be eligible for more intensive services.  And there’s also an income requirement, which varies depending on how much funding WIA has in your state. Generally, lower-income people, the unemployed and those on public assistance are highest priority.

Dislocated workers are defined as anyone who has been terminated or laid off, or has a layoff or termination imminent. They’re also self-employed people who are currently not working because of economic conditions, as well as homemakers who need training to transition back into the job market.


Youth services are provided to low-income children between the ages of 14 and 18. Services include tutoring, study skill training, dropout prevention, assessment, and summer employment opportunities.

Income requirements

In general, people who are out of work, living at or below the poverty level, or who are receiving public assistance get top priority when it comes to receiving funds for job training. However, the WIA will also provide job training funds for people who are not out of a job yet but who have received notice of an upcoming termination or layoff, struggling self-employed people, and those who have jobs that don’t pay enough to support them.  Specific income requirements at the local level vary depending on available funds.

If you’re interested in attending a job training program, ask whether the program is eligible to take funding from the WIA—and apply to your local WIA to see if you’re eligible to receive funding. It’s possible that new certification or job training program you want for your resume may be partially or fully covered by the Workforce Investment Act.


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