Approaches to Evaluating Welfare Reform: Lessons from Five State Demonstrations. 3. Michigan

10/01/1996

Michigan's welfare reform demonstration, To Strengthen Michigan Families (TSMF), was implemented statewide in October 1992. Significant amendments to the demonstration were implemented two years later. TSMF combines many of the financial incentives of the California and Colorado demonstrations (for example, expansion of earned-income disregards, raising of limits on asset holdings, and elimination of the 100-hour rule for two-parent families) with a stiffening of requirements for participation in the JOBS program. The provisions added in October 1994 include elimination of most JOBS exemptions and an increase in the severity of sanctions for noncompliance with JOBS requirements. Another provision of the 1994 TSMF amendments requires that preschool children be immunized, with a penalty for noncompliance. (This provision is common to the waiver demonstrations in many states.)

A random-assignment evaluation of TSMF is being conducted in four welfare offices located in 3 of Michigan's 83 counties. The research sample includes both ongoing recipients and new applicants for assistance. Unlike the California APDP/WPDP and Colorado CPREP evaluations (but like many other waiver demonstration evaluations), applicant cases in the TSMF evaluation undergo random assignment before determination of eligibility. This permits eligibility to be determined according to the provisions specific to an applicant's treatment or control status. Denied applicants who did not qualify for the alternative State Family Assistance (SFA) program were excluded from the research sample because of data limitations.(11) The TSMF evaluation is based on data from administrative files; a single client survey is also planned. The relatively early implementation date of TSMF means that this evaluation has generated more results than the other four evaluations that make up the information base for this report. Abt Associates, Inc. is the TSMF evaluator.