The term "welfare" is commonly used in two ways to refer to the broad array of "safety net" programs that support the needy; and to refer specifically to cash assistance for families. This study focuses on the latter, especially benefits and services funded under TANF.
The TANF block grant replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program (JOBS), and the federal Emergency Assistance program. Federal TANF block grant funds may be used for cash welfare payments to families with children, work activities for adult recipients, and supportive services designed to help recipients move from welfare into work. The new rules built into PRWORA increase the emphasis on work by imposing a five-year lifetime limit on receipt of federal welfare benefits (and permitting states to impose even shorter time limits), and require states to ensure that recipients are engaged in work activities.
The term "workforce development system" refers to a broad range of employment and training services and programs whose purpose is to enable job seekers and students to access a wide range of services and information about jobs, the labor market, careers, job placement, education and skills training, financing options, skills standards or certification requirements, and supportive services. The system also serves employers by posting job listings for employers and facilitating contacts with job seekers. While there is variation across states, there are several programs and agencies most likely to be part of the workforce development system. The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) authorized the provision of employment and training services, through Private Industry Councils (PICs) in designated local service delivery areas (SDAs)(1), to economically disadvantaged adults and youths, dislocated workers, and special populations such as veterans, Native Americans, and migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The Employment Service (ES), authorized by the Wagner-Peyser Act, provides general labor exchange services to members of the labor force in need of jobs and employers seeking workers. The ES is operated through state employment security agencies, and is sometimes called the "Job Service." At the state and local levels, employment security agencies also develop and disseminate labor market information (LMI) and administer the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program. In many, but not all states, both the ES and the JTPA administering agency are the same agency at the state level; and in several localities, the ES is the local administrator of JTPA (Martinson 1999).
In most states, much attention in the workforce development system is now focused on creating user-friendly one-stop career centers that provide job seekers and employers with access to a broad range of employment and training services at particular locations or through electronic linkages. As of April 1998, 46 states had received grants from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish one-stop centers. In many states these centers have become the focal point of the workforce development system, a trend reinforced by the recent enactment of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, which mandates the creation of one-stop career centers in all states by July 2000. The WIA was enacted to restructure and streamline multiple workforce development funding streams and ensure that employment and training services would be available to the public in the most efficient manner possible.