Approaches to Evaluating Welfare Reform: Lessons from Five State Demonstrations. 2. Colorado

10/01/1996

Unlike many of the welfare reform waiver demonstrations, the Colorado Personal Responsibility and Employment Program (CPREP) has not been implemented statewide; instead, it has been operating in 5 of Colorado's 62 counties since June 1994. CPREP is designed to encourage ongoing and new cases who do not have earnings to obtain jobs. It does this primarily by altering the financial incentives imbedded in the AFDC eligibility and benefit formulas. In particular, CPREP expands earned-income disregards, eliminates time limits on those disregards, and raises the eligibility limits on income and asset holdings. In addition, AFDC and child care benefits are combined in a single check and food stamp benefits are cashed out in a second check. Changes in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) training program are relatively minor.(10)

The CPREP evaluation is being conducted in the five demonstration counties, based on an experimental design. Random assignment of applicant cases to experimental or control status occurs after the determination of their eligibility and benefit levels according to traditional AFDC program (control group) rules, although these rules impose tighter asset limits than under welfare reform. This timing of random assignment minimizes the burden on income maintenance workers. It should not introduce significant bias into the evaluation findings, because most of the waivers (other than those concerning assets) involve the treatment of earned income. CPREP is restricted to cases without initial earnings; therefore, the changes in the treatment of earned income are irrelevant for these cases at the time of application. The evaluation is being based on data from administrative files plus three waves of client survey data. A research unit within the University of Colorado at Denver is evaluating CPREP.