Description and Assessment of State Approaches to Diversion Programs and Activities Under Welfare Reform. B. Target Populations for Mandatory Applicant Job Search

08/01/1998

As Table IV-2 shows, most states that require applicants to look for work impose this requirement on nearly all adult applicants. In general, states have used a traditional separation of cash assistance cases into three broad categories based on family structure and the relationship of the children in the household to the case head (single and two-parent families and families headed by a caretaker/relative) to define who is and is not required to look for work before their application for assistance is approved. Only two states, Missouri and South Carolina, limit this requirement to two-parent families. Alabama does not require caretaker/relatives to look for work, but does extend this requirement to both two-parent and single-parent families. Twelve states require the adults in single-parent, two-parent and caretaker/relative cases to look for work as a condition of eligibility. In Oregon and Ohio, the scope and nature of who is required to look for work is determined at the local level.

TABLE IV-2. APPLICANT JOB SEARCH REQUIREMENTS: WHO IS EXEMPT (n=16)
State Target populations Exemptions Exceptions
Alabama One and two parent families A family with a child under 1 year of age; disabled; not job ready ü
Arkansas One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian Not job ready ü
Arizona Two-parent families Not job ready; disabled; caring for disabled ü
Georgia One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian A one parent family with a child under 1 year of age; not job ready ü
Idaho One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian    
Indiana One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian A family with a child under 1 year of age;(1) disabled; caring for disabled  
Kansas One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian A one parent family with child under 1 year of age, disabled; caring for disabled child; not job ready  
Maryland One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian A family with a child under 1 year of age; disabled; caring for disabled ü
Missouri Two parent families, caretaker/guardian Not job ready ü
Nevada One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian A family with a child under 1 year of age; a family without access to child care for a child under 6 years of age; caring for disabled; not job ready  
New York One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian Disabled ü
Ohio(2)      
Oklahoma One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian Not job ready ü
Oregon The scope and nature of who is required to job search and who is exempt is determined at the county level.

ü

South Carolina One and two-parent families, caretaker/guardian A one parent family with child under 1 year of age; disabled; caring for disabled ü
Wisconsin One and two parent families, caretaker/guardian Not job ready  

 

Exemptions from the Mandatory Applicant Job Search Requirement

All states, except Idaho, exempt some applicants within the target population from the applicant job search requirement. As Table IV-2 shows applicants may be exempted on the basis of the age of the youngest child in the household, a disability (of the adult applicant or a household member) or job-readiness. Although the criteria for exemptions are generally determined at the state or county level, the actual decision as to whether or not someone in the target population will be subject to a job search requirement is often made on a case by case basis by individual workers. While some criteria such as age of the youngest child are entirely objective, others such as disability or job-readiness are much more subjective, making it difficult to specify with much precision how many potential applicants are likely to be required to look for work before their application for assistance is approved.

Seven states (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, and South Carolina) explicitly exempt applicants from job search on the basis of a child=s age. All seven states exempt applicants with a child under one year of age, presumably following the criteria set forth in PRWORA for defining the pool of families on which the state=s performance on meeting the work participation targets will be measured. The states that have deviated from the one year exemption criteria have done so in opposite directions. Indiana is planning to narrow its exemption based on the child's age to 12 weeks effective in December 1998. In Nevada, the exemption extends to families with children under 6 years of age if the family does not have access to child care.

Exemptions for applicants with a disability or who are caring for a disabled household member are somewhat more common than exemptions based on the age of the youngest child in the household. Eight states (Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New York, South Carolina) made some allowances for disability, although each state defines disability somewhat differently. In South Carolina, persons who are incapacitated by physical or mental impairments are exempted from job search. In Kansas, a disability must be supported by a written doctor=s statement.

In eight states (Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Wisconsin) applicants are exempted from the mandatory job search requirement if they are not job ready. Since there are no universally established criteria for determining whether someone is job ready or not, each state has developed its own criteria and/or system for determining whether an applicant should be exempted from job search based on this criteria. While some states have attempted to develop objective criteria that workers can use to make this determination, in many states, this determination is made by workers based on their evaluation of an individual applicant=s current circumstances and previous job history.

In Missouri, all TANF applicants are assessed at the initial interview for Alevel of job-readiness.@ There are three levels of job-readiness and only Level 1 persons must look for work at the point of application. Missouri defines a Level 1 person as someone who indicates an interest and ability to work and has some recent work history, a particular occupational license or certification that will allow her to work, or is receiving unemployment compensation. Levels 2 and 3 persons face greater barriers and do not have to complete applicant job search. Instead, Level 2 and 3 persons complete job search after they receive TANF. A level 1 person who is unsuccessful at finding a job at the end of four weeks is recategorized into Level 2 or 3 and they are authorized to receive TANF benefits. In Arkansas, a TANF applicant determined to be job ready is someone with a recent work history or at least a 10th grade education level, and someone with transportation and no child care needs. Georgia is currently developing an assessment tool for caseworkers to help them determine whether an applicant should be required to conduct a job search. Georgia recognizes that some circumstances may prohibit eligible applicants from immediately pursuing a job. For example, an applicant might have low education levels and poor literacy, transportation problems, or child care issues that need to be resolved before the applicants engage in mandatory job search.

In some states, worker discretion extends beyond determining whether or not an applicant is a part of the target population and meets any of the exemption criteria. In 10 of the 16 states with applicant job search requirements, workers have the discretion to make exceptions to the formal exemptions.(2) Exceptions may include situations such as a non-disabling injury, illiteracy and other barriers that prevent individuals from actively engaging in mandatory job search.

Although the specified target population for most applicant job search programs is all adult applicants, exemptions and exceptions granted through worker discretion are likely to considerably reduce the number of applicants subject to this requirement. Substantial worker discretion could also result in considerable variation from one office to the next.