The operations of dozens of W-2 programs across the state could move out of county control later this year. Rather than give counties the first choice at running those programs, the Department of Children and Families last month started seeking bids from both the public and private sectors to administer the job services program.
DCF Secretary Eloise Anderson says the shift is part of an effort to make W-2 more cost effective and efficient. Anderson says the change will allow the agency to have more access to programs and more control over how funds are used. In short, Anderson says the agency “won’t just being paying you just to breath and deal air. We pay you for performance.”
The open bidding process is raising concerns from counties that currently administer their own W-2 programs. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi says the funding is a key component of the Dane County Jobs Center, allowing individuals who are using the program to have a “one stop shop” for obtaining assistance. He’s worried that a private vendor taking over W-2 could separate those services from other state aid programs that also operate out of the Jobs Center.
Dane County currently receives about $4 million to administer its W-2 services. Anderson says less than half the counties in the state are running their own programs, with most of them being operated by private firms that often cover several connected counties at the same time.
Anderson says counties are more than welcome to put in a bid to maintain control of their services. Parisi argues that’s really not an option though because of the preference for a consortium approach, in which several counties are covered by the same entity. He says that would leave the county without the resources to operate the program like it currently does.
Parisi argues the change is a direct blow to workforce development efforts because it could make it harder for low-income residents to access job assistance programs. He’s calling on DCF to work with counties to make policy changes, rather than handing over control to private companies.
DCF plans to complete bidding on the contracts by July.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:06)