Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Report to Congress. Grantee Plans Recognize the Need to Support Participants in Their Employment Efforts

Survey responses make it clear that grantees recognize the serious personal and skill deficits with which many participants will enter employment.  This is evident in the emphasis they are putting on placing participants in supported employment.  It is also demonstrated by grantees' inclusion in their plans of supportive services to complement services from other available sources.

Supported Work a Major Priority.  Most WtW grantees emphasize providing opportunities for their clients to participate in supported work activities, rather than simply placing them in unsubsidized employment.  Supported work activities may entail financial incentives that encourage employers to hire people they might otherwise view skeptically, or activities that involve structured worksite training, or both.  They include allowable activities such as on­the­job training, work experience programs, subsidized employment in either the public or private sector, and community service.  While two­thirds of survey respondents said they will help WtW clients secure unsubsidized employment, 91 percent will provide such supported employment activities as an interim step towards unsubsidized employment (Table D.1).

Supported work activities account for the largest spending category reported by grantees.  Survey respondents project spending an estimated 22 percent of their federal WtW dollars on all supported work activities combined (Table D.1).  In contrast, only three percent of their funds were allocated to unsubsidized employment, although almost two­thirds of the grantees are providing access to unsubsidized employment.  This finding is to be expected, since the major costs of an unsubsidized employment program component are in job preparation and placement services.  Supported work activities, in contrast, entail substantial costs for wage subsidies or special supervision and training at the worksite.

Supportive Services Also an Important Element.  WtW participants engaged in job readiness or employment activities are allowed to receive appropriate job retention supportive services, if such services are not otherwise available.3  DOL regulations specify that WtW­funded supportive services may include transportation assistance, child care, emergency or short­term housing assistance, disability­related services, or other supportive services.  The first WtW grantee survey asked specifically about plans for most of these types of services: child care, transportation, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and other needs.  Grantees are clearly attentive to the need for supportive services.

Grantees recognize transportation difficulties as a common barrier to employment success for the WtW population.  More than 80 percent of respondents indicated that they will provide direct transportation assistance to WtW participants, contract for transportation services, or provide subsidies to transportation providers.  The survey respondents will devote an estimated seven percent of their overall WtW funds to providing transportation assistance for WtW participants.

Grantees are likely to spend even more WtW funds on child care services.  Almost 63 percent of survey respondents indicated that they will provide direct child care assistance to WtW participants, contract for child care services, or provide subsidies directly to providers.  Moreover, they will devote an estimated nine percent of their overall WtW funds (about as much as they are devoting to postemployment training) to such assistance.  WtW regulations direct operating entities to ensure that grant funds do not substitute for child care services available through the Child Care Development Fund, TANF funds, or other state or local sources.  Respondents' relatively strong emphasis on child care suggests that the child care needs of the WtW target population are perceived as extending beyond the resources generally available at the local level.

Need for substance abuse treatment as a prerequisite for employment is one of the eligibility factors under WtW's hard­to­employ criteria.  Thus, it is not surprising that many respondents said they will provide substance abuse treatment with WtW funds (51 percent).  A small proportion of overall WtW funds is devoted to these services, however, possibly because WtW funds cannot be used for medical services.4  WtW grantees may be providing nonmedical substance abuse treatment services as part of WtW­funded case management, counseling, support groups, or other components of their programs.

FOOTNOTES

1.  References to the DOL regulations allude to the interim final rule on regulations for the WtW grants program and the summary and explanatory text (20 CFR Part 645, RIN 1205­AB15, Federal Register, vol. 62, no. 222, pp. 61588­61594).

2.  Beside education and training services, the only example the WtW legislation provides of allowable postemployment supportive services is mentoring.  Nevertheless, DOL's regulations make it clear that these examples are not intended to imply that only educational, training, or mentoring services are allowable as postemployment services under WtW.

3.  The BBA's restriction on provision of supportive services was intended to maximize the use of resources available at the local level and focus WtW resources on direct assistance to recipients.

4.  Section 408(a)(6) of the BBA, which bars the use of federal TANF funds for medical services, also applies to WtW funds.  Therefore, substance abuse treatment services allowed within the WtW legislation only include services performed by those not in the medical profession (such as counselors, technicians, social workers, and psychologists) and services not provided in a hospital or clinic.