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July 16 -- The Chief Evaluation Office (CEO), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Labor (DOL), invites public comment to OMB by August 16, 2021 regarding its proposal evaluate the Reentry Employment Opportunity (REO) Program.
The Employment and Training Administration's Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program provides funding authorized as Research and Evaluation under Section 169, of the Workforce Opportunity Investment Act (WIOA) of 2014 for justice-involved youth, young adults, and formerly incarcerated adults. Our goal is to develop strategies and partnerships that facilitate the implementation of successful programs at the state and local levels that will improve the workforce outcomes for this population. These projects are designed to test the effectiveness of successful models and practices found in community and faith-based environments and other government systems that have not been tested for their adaptability in the public workforce system.

Core services include case management, occupational skills training leading to industry recognized credentials, employment, work experience, tutoring, mentoring, high school diploma equivalency preparation, credit retrieval, restorative justice opportunities, summer jobs linked to academic and occupational learning, leadership development, utilizing non-profit legal services providers to mitigate juvenile and criminal records, diversion from adjudication, and follow-up. Projects also promote collaboration and coordination between community-based organizations, foundations, state and local justice agencies, school districts, and the public workforce system.  
Understanding the effectiveness of the DOL-funded programs serving young adults and adults with justice system involvement requires a rigorous evaluation. CEO has contracted with Mathematica and its subcontractor, SPR, to conduct two studies, an implementation and an impact study. The implementation study will provide an overall assessment of the recent REO initiative investments and provide context for the impact study, including a retrospective view of how COVID-19 influenced their operations. The impact study will compare a group of REO program participants to a comparison group of non-REO program participants to build the evidence base about the effectiveness of employment services for young adults and adults with current and former involvement in the justice system. The data collection efforts that are part of this clearance request will involve grantees and subgrantees that received grants in 2018 and 2019.

The REO implementation study will address four key research questions:
1.    How were programs implemented, and what factors were associated with implementation?
2.    What are the variations in the model, structure, partnerships, and services of the REO grants?
3.    How did implementation vary by organization type (such as an intermediary organization that operates in more than one state or a community-based organization) and target population (young adult or adult)?
4.    How do participants experience the program, and what elements do they find most influential?

The REO impact study will focus on REO intermediaries and CBO grantees in selected states and will compare the outcomes of their participants to those of a comparison group of similar individuals who received Wagner Peyser employment services but who did not receive REO services. The impact study will address four [sic] key research questions:
1.    What impact does access to REO services have on participants’ employment, earnings, and recidivism outcomes?
2.    To what extent do impacts from access to REO services vary across selected subpopulations, including age group and offense history?
3.    What are the program components or services associated with positive participant outcomes?
Understanding the implementation and effectiveness of the REO grants requires collecting data from multiple sources. For the implementation study, data collection will include key informant interviews with grantees, subgrantees, and partner staff; individual-level program data; a grantee survey; and focus groups with employers and REO program participants. The grantee survey with year 2019 grantees will begin in November 2021. Interviews and focus groups will be conducted during implementation study site visits in September 2021 to grantees participating in the implementation study. For the impact study, the study team will collect outcome data from administrative earnings records and criminal justice system records for all impact study participants. The data collection activities this clearance request includes (1) the grantee survey for the grantees that received grants in 2019 and were not previously included in the first clearance package submitted for this study (see OMB Approval No. 1290-0026); (2) a master site visit interview protocol for interviews with grant administrators, frontline staff, partner staff administrators, and intermediary grant administrators; (3) a participant focus group protocol; and (4) an employer focus group protocol.
REO webpage:  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/reentry
REO evaluation package submitted to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202104-1290-002 Click on IC List for survey forms, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
FR notice inviting public comments:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/07/16/2021-15111/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-for-omb-review-comment-request-reentry
Point of contact: reo.eta@dol.gov
For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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