Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Report to Congress. Early Enrollments Are Proceeding at a Modest Pace

Even after WtW grantees begin their planned activities, some time may pass before they actually enroll participants.  Arranging for referrals, obtaining referral lists or conducting outreach in the community, and holding orientation sessions and assessments may create lags before individuals are considered enrolled as WtW participants.  Such lags can explain why 50 percent of grantee respondents to the survey reported they had "begun delivering services," but fewer (43 percent) said they had enrolled participants.

Grantees have made a modest start toward fulfilling their plans for enrollment and services.  Grantees set their own targets for the number of participants they will eventually serve with their WtW grants.  On average, the respondents to the survey reported that they will eventually serve 537 participants (Table E.1).  Considerable variation exists in program size, however; more than half of the grantees expect to serve fewer than 250 participants.  Among the 43 percent of grantees that had begun enrollment by the time they responded to the survey, the average grantee had enrolled about 64 participants (Table E.1), with a range from 1 WtW participant (for nine grantees) to 1,084 (for one grantee).

If expected enrollments are to be achieved, the early pace of enrollment in WtW programs must increase.  The grantees that had started enrollment by the time of the survey had begun delivering services at different times during 1998, but the average rate at which they had enrolled participants was 21 participants per month.  Given their own enrollment targets and their monthly enrollment rates to date, these grantees would, on average, take over five years (66 months) to reach their targets if they continued at the enrollment pace achieved in their early months of operation.  Some grantees, however, are enrolling participants more rapidly even in the early stages; for half of the grantees, enrollment targets could be achieved in 24 months or less even at their early enrollment rate.  A quarter of grantees, in fact, appear on a pace to reach their overall enrollment target in a year.  At the other extreme, however, are grantees that have started enrollment, but very slowly; more than a fifth of the grantees with enrollees would take more than five years to reach their target at their early enrollment rate.

The modest pace of early enrollment undoubtedly reflects the normal kinds of start­up issues that all programs encounter, but discussions with grantees suggest that, in many places, other factors also are at work.1  Grantees have commonly used the reported numbers of WtW­eligible recipients still on the rolls as a basis for estimating likely numbers of referrals to the WtW program or of individuals who might be recruited.  Grantees have frequently noted that, when the referral process or recruitment outreach begins, the number of real participant prospects is more limited.  They have cited various reasons for this, such as (1) a strong local economy, which allows TANF recipients to respond to "work first" requirements by finding a job on their own rather than by entering a WtW program; (2) substantial rates of medical exemptions from TANF work participation requirements; (3) stubborn resistance to employment or program participation among a core of even those TANF recipients who could face loss of benefits when they reach an approaching time limit; and (4) the restrictive effects of the WtW eligibility criteria (see Section F).



1.  These discussions have occurred as grantees call with questions about the survey and as evaluation staff pursue the possibility with interested grantees of their participation in the in­depth component of the evaluation.