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Tennessee can look to others for ideas.

As policy makers in Tennessee begin examining the state's jobs picture and considering what may be necessary to move a majority of Tennessee's 85,000-plus adult welfare recipients into the work force, welfare-to-work projects already undertaken by a number of states can supply pre-tested ideas. Between January 1, 1992, and January 1, 1995, 27 states were granted waivers from federal AFDC guidelines and allowed to be creative with the rules and procedures that govern use of federal AFDC funds. These states were encouraged to seek a variety of approaches, based on what they believed would work best in their particular state. Some of the state initiatives instituted over the past two years are examples of ways to reward productive behavior, rather than just punish dependency:

* Georgia. With the "Personal Accountability and Responsibility Project" (PARR), Georgia provides job search assistance, requires all able-bodied recipients not caring for children under age 14 to accept full-time employment if offered, and reduces benefits if a job offer is refused or employment ended without good cause.

* Florida. The state's "Family Transition Program" (FTP) is being tested in two pilot counties, Benefits are limited to 24 months in any 60-month period, and a minimum-wage job is guaranteed in either the private or public sector for recipients unable to find work at the end of 24 months. Participants in FTP are expected to participate in vocational assessment, job search, training, and basic education activities; failure to participate results in benefit reductions. Participants are eligible for up to 24 months of transitional child care and 12 months of Medicaid. For those unable to find employment at the end of the time limit or becoming unemployed after losing eligibility for benefits, the state, in partnership with businesses in the pilot counties, works to design a transitional program to provide private-sector employment. Incentive payments of up to 70 percent of the recipient's current AFDC benefits for a maximum of 12 months are offered to private employers who hire hard-to-place AFDC recipients. If private-sector employment is insufficient to meet the program's needs, the state will provide public-sector opportunities.

* Vermont. The state's Family Independence Program (FIP) allows 30 months of benefits, after which time all non-exempt AFDC parents are required to be employed or to participate in subsidized community service. Benefits are replaced by "wages," based on the parent's completion of his or her work requirement. Minimum work hours are set, based on the ages of children in the family. Before beginning community service jobs, non-exempt parents must engage in a minimum of eight weeks of job-search activities. If the eligible parent refuses to participate in FIP, the family's benefit is severely reduced and no longer paid directly to the parent.

* Oregon. The state's Jobs Plus program, begun as a demonstration project in six counties, is now expanding statewide. Federal AFDC funds go into a pool to subsidize jobs for welfare recipients for six to nine months at the state minimum wage of $4.75 an hour. Although the work is temporary, employees gain real work experience and on-the-job training for future jobs.

* Colorado. CPREP, the Colorado Personal Responsibility and Employment Program, includes a strong work contingent to encourage recipients to move to self-sufficiency. AFDC, food stamp, and child care benefits are consolidated into a single package, and a two-year time limit is set on eligibility for benefits. After two years of eligibility, work-worthy adults (with some exceptions) are required to be employed for at least 30 hours per week and/or participate in JOBS training or education. Failure to actively participate results in a reduction in AFDC benefits. A financial incentive of up to $500 is paid to JOBS participants who graduate from high school or obtain a GED. The state is working to enlist the support of private-sector employers to provide career counseling, on-the-job training opportunities, and employer-sponsored higher education.

* Iowa. This state's Family Investment Program (IFIP) is among a number of state initiatives that seek to make work more rewarding by modifying earnings disregards, increasing resource and asset limits, and allowing recipients to establish special savings accounts. Current federal guidelines place limits on the gross income and earnings of AFDC recipients, restrict the resources a family can accumulate to $1,000, and limit the value of a car not counted as an asset to $1,500. Iowa allows a disregard of 20 percent of work expenses and 50 percent of all earned income remaining after other approved deductions. The state increases the amount of resources a family may accumulate to $5,000 and ups the vehicle asset limit to $3,000. Iowa also disregards income deposited into, as well as interest earned from, Individual Development Accounts (IDA). Funds may be withdrawn from the IDA for educational and other approved purposes.

Wisconsin. One of the nation's most talked-about welfare-to-work programs is here. Wisconsin has reduced its welfare caseload by 25 percent since 1987, but it has not been cheap. Combined state and federal spending on training programs has climbed to $57 million annually over the last decade, compared with $1 million in 1986. However, training has proven to be a good investment, since combined state and federal savings on welfare in Wisconsin now total $16 million a month.

In its Work Not Welfare (WNW) program, Wisconsin provides a maximum of 24 months of cash benefits within a four-year eligibility window, along with 12 months of transitional child care and medical benefits within the four years. The state requires recipients to engage in education, training, and work activities, and participation in Wisconsin's JOBS training program is 54 percent, compared with the average among all states of 11 percent.

The state provides CWEP (Community Work Experience Program) placements or "Independence Jobs" (developed for WNW participants) for those required to work who cannot find private employment. In two counties, the state is conducting a demonstration project in which recipients are required to work for their benefits. Their welfare checks are reduced if they miss a day. Today, 19 percent of Wisconsin's welfare recipients are working, compared with the national average of one percent.

Information for this article was compiled from "State Welfare Initiatives," CRS Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, January 1995; "Welfare Reform: Making It Work," Nation's Business, June 1995.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Will Work For Business?

Just as welfare reform will put pressure on aid recipients to find jobs, it will exert pressure on America's businesses to provide the jobs needed to make reform work. Welfare proponents are looking to the private sector as the primary source of job placement and creation. What should business expect out of the bargain? What can business do to help?

Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked for a role in crafting reform legislation and asserted some principles it believed should be incorporated into the new welfare system including:

* Business should be centrally involved in all phases of the new welfare system's design, development, operation, and evaluation. The Chamber advocated including representatives of the private sector in the delivery of local welfare services.

* Welfare must become a transitional system that leads to work. The Chamber called for time limits on welfare benefits and measures that put responsibility on finding a job on the individual.

* If recipients need to acquire skills to obtain a job, then intensive education, training, and job search services must begin immediately. A Chamber survey showed that 76 percent of the organization's membership favored federally-funded education and training services for welfare recipients.

* In addition to improving performance in major subject areas and occupational skills, education and training services should help welfare recipients develop the affective skills needed to perform in the workplace. Chamber members viewed workplace skills such as the ability to work with others, reporting to work on time, and developing a positive attitude toward work to be essential job skills.

* Welfare recipients must be drug-free as a condition of employment. The Chamber suggested that drug education be incorporated into training programs.

* The reformed welfare system must not impose any new federal mandates or regulatory burdens upon employers. The new system must not be financed through the creation of a new tax or an increase in any current tax on business, the Chamber said.

* An employer tax credit should be given to businesses that hire welfare recipients.

* Reforms already undertaken at the state level should be examined. The Chamber urged that special consideration be given to options that restructure the welfare system without resulting in cost increases, as well as those that achieve cost savings through improvement of state and local welfare systems.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; welfare-to-work programs of other states
Publication:Business Perspectives
Date:Jul 1, 1995
Words:1429
Previous Article:Another good performance review for JOBSWORK.
Next Article:Workforce development: the key to our future.
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