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TANF “leavers”, Applicants, and Caseload Studies: FY 1999 Welfare Outcomes Grants with an Emphasis on TANF Applicants and Diversion

One of the Congress's major objectives in providing welfare outcomes money to ASPE over the last several years has been to measure outcomes for a broad population of low-income families, welfare recipients, former recipients, potential recipients, and other special populations affected by state TANF policies, including diversion practices. To this end, ASPE issued a request for applications from states and large counties in April 1999 with an emphasis on the study of applicants and potential applicants to the TANF program. ASPE awarded seven grants under this announcement, six of which specifically support state efforts to gather a variety of information about individuals and their families who applied to TANF, including those who were formally or informally diverted from TANF. ASPE has been particularly interested in learning about the degree to which TANF applicants receive, or are aware of their potential eligibility for, Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs and services that are important in helping low-income families make a successful transition to work. "Diversion" in the context of these grants is not limited to participation in formal diversion programs, but also includes "informal" divertees. These are usually defined as individuals who began the application process but were either deemed ineligible for non-monetary reasons, withdrew voluntarily after completing the process, or failed to complete the process for some other reason.

The seven (7) grantees selected for funding in FY 1999 were:



Survey Instrument
Final Report (in PDF format)

Arizona built on their FY 1998 study of leavers by looking at informal divertees and entrants to TANF.  The study used a wide range of administrative data (including data on child care subsidies) to track second quarter 1999 divertees and entrants for 12 months, and included two waves of surveys of 400 individuals in both populations.  Some of the subgroups on which the state focused included urban vs. rural applicants and applicants who were initially denied but eventually reapplied for TANF.  Arizona collected administrative data from a number of different sources, including a data warehouse established as part of the FY 1998 ASPE leavers grant.

The final report for the project was released in October 2001.  Both sets of applicants (divertees and entrants) showed dramatic increases in employment, income, and other indicators during the study period, and most of the families stated that they were better off at the time of the second interview (about fifteen months after applying for TANF).  However, about half of the respondents remained unemployed, and cited medical issues and preference to car for the child at home as the main reasons for not working.

Grantee Contact:  Mark McCain, Arizona Department of Economic Security
Phone:  (602) 364-0958


Contra Costa and Alameda Counties (CA)

Survey Instrument
Final Report (in PDF format)

Contra Costa and Alameda Counties are located in the East San Francisco Bay area of California and contain the cities of Oakland and Richmond. This project studied TANF leavers from both counties, as well as formal and informal divertees in Contra Costa County. Researchers at the SPHERE Institute were able to take advantage of these counties' Case Data System (CDS), which includes every TANF application that is initiated in the two counties. The CDS allowed SPHERE to uncover the reasons individuals were diverted or left TANF, as well as make comparisons across the two counties. SPHERE used the CDS both to link all applicants with other administrative databases and to draw their survey sample of 850 leavers and 150 divertees from the third quarter of 1999. Comparisons between divertees, leavers, and cases that transitioned to child-only cases and between the two counties were made in the final report, which includes data from two rounds of surveys.

The SPHERE Institute released the final report for this project in October 2001.  They found that overall, conditions improve in the period following TANF application for both leavers and the informally diverted, but that one year after applying for TANF, leavers were doing somewhat better than informally diverted families and much better than families that transitioned to child-only cases.  Awareness and use of post-exit "transitional" benefits were not high. 

Grantee Contact:  David Mancuso, The SPHERE Institute
Phone:  (650) 558-3980 x.13



Final Report (in PDF format)

Illinois focused this study on applicants; the state was particularly interested in learning about families who failed to complete the application process. Although Illinois has no formal diversion policy, the study assessed the state's recently-implemented intake process, which emphasizes employment, assessment, and prompt referral to needed services. Researchers analyzed administrative data for the entire population of approximately 6,000 families who applied for TANF during the summer of 2000. The study also included a survey of families who applied for TANF during the summer of 2000, administered at approximately two to four months after application, and surveys of program administrators at six local welfare offices to help evaluate the new intake process.  Representatives from both the state and MAXIMUS, the contractor for the study, presented initial findings from the study at the annual workshop of the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS) in August 2001. The final report was released in May 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Alan Whitaker, Illinois Department of Human Services
Phone:  (217) 785-0754



Final Report (in PDF format)

Iowa, along with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), has completed a study of individuals and families exiting TANF.  The study continued previous work by MPR associated with Iowa's Family Investment Program (FIP). The study covered all single-parent families who participated in FIP at some point during the spring of 1999 and received no FIP benefit during July and August of 1999. Two-parent families and child-only cases were excluded. Findings are based on administrative records tracking Medicaid and Food Stamp receipt, participation in child welfare services, receipt of court-ordered child support, wage records and FIP case records. In addition, a survey was administered to 401 cases at 8-12 months after exit.  Specifically, researchers examined the following questions: 1) the reasons why families leave TANF; 2) the employment and earnings status before and after leaving TANF; 3) participation in government assistance before and after leaving TANF, and; 4) the well-being of families and children before and after leaving TANF. A final report was released by Iowa and MPR in April 2001.

Grantee Contact:  Amjed Mohammed, Iowa Department of Human Services
Phone:  (515) 281-6820


New York

Survey Instrument (in PDF format)

New York, which also received a FY 1998 leavers grant from ASPE, included divertees, all other denials, and entrants in their sample for this study. Their analysis has focused on comparing TANF applicants who were diverted with those who received cash assistance. Twenty-one local districts participated in the study, including New York City and other sites ranging from large urban to rural areas. In most districts, state researchers have used administrative data to track a March 2000 sample of divertees, denials, and entrants for 12 months after the application.  The sample was drawn through intercept interviews with TANF applicants in each of the local districts using a methodology that allowed New York to include individuals who entered the TANF office with the intent to apply but who did not submit written applications. The state's contractor, ORC Macro, administered the survey to the sample of 864 families, evenly split between diverted applicants and entrants. The state expects to report results in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Jeff Barnes, New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance
Phone:  (518) 474-9292



Final Report (in PDF format)

This project represented the combined efforts of the Texas Department of Human Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the University of Texas-Austin. It focused not only on informal divertees, but also on potential TANF applicants who were formally diverted by the state, either through a one-time lump sum payment or by redirection into work. The administrative data analysis incorporated a wide variety of sources, and tracked both applicants who were redirected into work or denied for non-financial reasons and participants in the lump-sum diversion program. In addition to the two waves of surveys conducted with applicants who were denied TANF for non-financial reasons, the state added leavers to both the survey and administrative samples.

The final report for the project was released by the Texas Department of Human Services in January 2002.  The state found that families diverted from TANF quickly resumed their prior levels of receipt of TANF, Medicaid, and food stamps, as well as their prior level of earnings, suggesting that diversion policies in Texas have few long-term effects on diverted families.  The majority of redirected applicants and leavers were employed in the period immediately following the study quarter.

Grantee Contact:  Ellen Montgomery, Texas Department of Human Services
Phone:  (512) 438-4729



Survey Instrument (in PDF format)

Following up on the leavers grant that they received in FY 1998, Washington studied formal and informal divertees and entrants. The state compared the experiences of individuals who participated in the state's Diversion Cash Assistance program, those who entered TANF, and those who were diverted and received assistance from neither program. They have analyzed administrative data for the full populations of each of these groups from the fourth quarters of 1997, 1998, and 1999, including data from up to 12 months prior to and 12 months after the selection quarter. The state has nearly completed administrative data collection.  The state also surveyed individuals who applied for TANF or Diversion Cash Assistance between July and October of 1999. The survey was administered between four and eight months after the time of application. The state has submitted a draft final report to ASPE and hopes to release a final report containing both the survey and administrative data in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Shon Kraley, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Phone:  (360) 413-3086