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May 2 -- The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families is proposing revisions to data collection activities conducted for the Next Generation of Enhanced Employment Strategies (NextGen) Project. The project is rigorously evaluating innovative interventions to promote employment and economic security among low-income individuals with complex challenges. The project includes an experimental impact study, descriptive study, and cost study. The project is seeking approval for two participant follow-up surveys and related materials with proposed changes to the instruments and to the tokens of appreciation for the follow-up surveys. The requested changes do not require any changes to the previously submitted and approved burden estimates. Public comments to OMB by June 1, 2022 are invited. [While the FRN was posted on March 28, ACF submitted its proposal to OMB on May 2.]  
 
OPRE has spent decades studying strategies to help low-income people find and keep jobs. Findings from these studies have been mixed, revealing variation in what works for whom and the duration and magnitude of impacts. Some studies have also demonstrated that certain programs are less accessible to individuals with complex challenges, such as low educational attainment or involvement with the criminal justice system, due to the program’s eligibility requirements.  

The NextGen Project is intended to build on the findings and lessons learned from these past and ongoing evaluations by identifying and rigorously evaluating the “next generation” of employment strategies for highly vulnerable populations with complex barriers to obtaining and retaining employment. These strategies may be enhancements or adaptations of previously evaluated strategies, or innovative approaches showing promise in the field and ready to be tested. Additionally, the project has a particular interest in the role of market-oriented, employment-focused programs, such as social enterprises and public/private partnerships, in assisting highly vulnerable populations obtain and retain employment. The current data collection request is necessary to continue these rigorous evaluations.
 
The NextGen Project is actively coordinating with another current project sponsored by OPRE, the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families (BEES) study (OMB #0970-0537). BEES may include impact and/or implementation studies of up to 21 employment-focused programs; these will not overlap with programs selected for the NextGen Project. The NextGen Project and BEES have a common goal to foster stronger understanding of the types of programs that can improve labor market outcomes for low-income individuals; however, the projects also maintain separate domains of focus. In addition, both projects are involved in a joint effort with the Social Security Administration (SSA). SSA has provided demonstration program funds to ACF to support the addition of a disability focus in both projects; specifically, to identify and evaluate employment-related programs for potential SSI applicants. This is intended to assist SSA in better understanding the types of early interventions that effectively connect or reconnect potential SSI applicants to work before they apply for SSI.

Data collection instruments for the NextGen Project impact studies will provide baseline and outcome data about study participants, which the project team will use to estimate the effectiveness of each program. The project team will use data collection instruments for the descriptive studies to describe each program’s design, staffing, service provision, partnerships, and other details necessary to understand the nature of and context for the programs, and for other organizations to replicate them. The instruments will also help inform the interpretation of impact findings. Finally, the project team will use data collection for the cost studies to estimate the costs of implementing each evaluated program and to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the programs. The results will provide policymakers and practitioners with high-quality information on the effects, design and implementation, and the cost of the programs. Having this information will help strengthen policy and practice to better serve individuals facing complex challenges to employment and economic independence. Study findings may also inform future studies in this area.  
  
NextGen webpage: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/project/next-generation-enhanced-employment-strategies-project-2018-2023
NextGen submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202204-0970-020  Click IC List for data collection instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-06403

For AEA members wishing to submit comments to OMB, the AEA Committee on Economic Statistics offers "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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