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8.3.4 Economic Self-Sufficiency

Effective date: June 28, 2018 - July 25, 2019 Background

One of WIOA's main purposes is to increase economic self-sufficiency (ESS) through workforce development activities.1

The U.S. Department of Labor requires local workforce development areas to follow a process for determining ESS standards for Adult and Dislocated Worker Program participants.2 The State has the discretion to develop and adopt a method for calculating ESS standards that addresses the income needs of households based on household size, ages of household members, and geographic location within the state.3 Accordingly, the DWD-DET adopted a standard approach for defining and determining ESS that is to be used statewide for Adult and Dislocated Worker Program participants. Definition of Economic Self-Sufficiency

For the purposes of the Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs, the DWD-DET defines "economic self-sufficiency" as the minimum amount of income required for a household4 to meet its basic expenses, without public or private assistance. Under WIOA, this amount must always be equal to or greater than 100 percent of the Lower Living Standard Income Level (LLSIL), by family size.5 Wisconsin's WIOA Title I ESS Standard


Two of the DWD-DET's policy criteria incorporate a method that uses a statewide data set to determine the income needed to cover a household's basic needs (aka its ESS level), taking into account household composition (i.e. the number and ages of people in a household) and county of residence.6 The data comes from federal and state sources and identifies typical costs for housing, transportation, food, health care, childcare, taxes, and other miscellaneous items. The DWD-DET plans to refresh the data set every three years to reflect changes in costs of basic needs.


To be considered economically self-sufficient, an Adult or Dislocated Worker Program participant must:

A Dislocated Worker Program participant must meet the above criteria and one of the following:


The ESS calculator is accessible in ASSET through the "Manage Planning Tools" menu item. To create a new ESS calculation, click "Add Self-sufficiency" and complete the required fields. Career planners have 24 hours to make changes before the calculations are no longer editable.

A training video is available for the ESS calculator.

Career planners must use the ESS calculator to establish whether a program participant is economically self-sufficient. The career planner enters the participant's information into the calculator based on the field prompts. From there, the ESS calculator provides the following output:

  1. A matrix identifying:
    • the target income for each of the DWD-DET's policy criteria;
    • the amount entered into the ESS calculator for each of the DWD-DET's policy criteria; and
    • whether the target income for each of the DWD-DET's policy criteria is met.
  2. A determination of whether the participant is considered economically self-sufficient based on DWD-DET's policy criteria.

Self-reporting by the participant is an acceptable source of the information used for the calculation. Since the information provided may be used as a basis to approve or deny training services, the career planner must ensure that self-reported information is documented in writing with a signed attestation by the participant that the information is true and correct. This may be accomplished by including the income and household composition information in the local workforce area's program intake form or having the participant sign a printout of the ESS Calculator's results. Requirements for Applying the ESS Standard

There are two times when career planners are required to use the ESS calculator – when enrolling a new participant and to justify placing a participant into training.

  1. Career planners must perform an ESS calculation for all Adult and Dislocated Worker Program participants as part of program registration and enrollment. When creating a new ESS calculation in ASSET, select the checkbox "Status at Enrollment."
    Note: Self-sufficiency is not part of the Adult or Dislocated Worker Program eligibility criteria. Program enrollment cannot be denied to individuals who are considered economically self-sufficient, if they meet the program eligibility criteria.
  2. A participant can receive WIOA Title I funded training only if s/he meets all requirements of Section 680.210 of the DOL WIOA Final Rule, which include:
    • the individual is not considered economically self-sufficient and needs training to obtain economic self-sufficiency
    • the individual is considered economically self-sufficient but is unlikely to remain so without training.8

Note: There are a number of situations in which training services may be appropriate for participants who are self-sufficient at the time training services are provided. Examples include participants who:

When creating a new ESS calculation in ASSET, select the checkbox "Training." Other Ways to Use the ESS Standard

Career planners are not required to calculate and use ESS except upon enrollment of a participant or to justify training. However, they may wish to use it in a variety of other ways to increase the quality of services provided to program participants. Examples include:

  1. identifying occupations that would likely result in economic self-sufficiency using county-level occupational wage data;
  2. measuring progress for participants embarking on a career pathway; and
  3. determining whether a participant has met the program goal of securing employment resulting in economic self-sufficiency.