Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Report to Congress. INTRODUCTION

Recent federal policy actions have supported increased efforts to move welfare recipients and other lowВ­income Americans into sustained employment.В In 1996, Congress enacted and the President signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which creates a workВ­focused, timeВ­limited Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.В In 1997, the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) authorized the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to distribute $3 billion in welfareВ­toВ­work (WtW) grants to states and local communities to promote job opportunities and employment preparation and retention for the hardestВ­toВ­employ recipients of TANF and for certain noncustodial parents of their children.В The law also instructed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of these WtW initiatives.

This report responds to a congressional mandate for rapid findings on WtW program implementation.В Although the evaluation will extend through August 2002, early responses to a survey of grantees conducted at the end of 1998 provide an outline of federally funded WtW programs and their initial startВ­up experiences.1В The preliminary findings from this survey are displayed in the "Summary of Early Findings" table.

The rest of this report contains six sections.В Section A presents the policy background for the evaluation and its overall design.В Sections B through F then address five basic questions about the early implementation experience of WtW grantees:

  • What organizations and resources are involved in the WtW grants program? Who are the grantees? Where are they? How large are the WtW programs? What other resources are being drawn on for WtW programs? (Section B)
  • Whom do the federally funded WtW programs serve? How many participants are they likely to serve? To what extent do the programs target certain eligible groups? What are the demographic characteristics of the population they will serve? How are they recruiting participants? (Section C)
  • What services do WtW programs provide? What services and employmentВ­related activities are most common? (Section D)
  • What early progress is being made in WtW program implementation? To what extent have grantees begun delivering services? How many people have been served? (Section E)
  • What issues have emerged in early implementation? What concerns do grantees have about the program as a whole? How might it be improved? How will later stages of the evaluation address important issues? (Section F)


Summary of Early Findings from the Evaluation of the WelfareВ­toВ­Work Grants Program
  • Grantees are emphasizing rapid attachment to supportive work.В As the BBA requires, grantees are allocating substantial resources to getting participants quickly into work activity.В In addition, the grantees are emphasizing supported employmentВ through wage subsidies and worksite trainingВ over simple placement in regular jobs.В This approach is consistent with their programs' focus on longВ­term TANF recipients with severe barriers to employment and poor work experience.
  • Grantees are in the very earliest stages of implementation.В About half of the local grantees surveyed were not awarded grants until the latter part of 1998, and it takes them several months to begin services.В By late 1998, about 40 percent of grantees had started enrolling participants; these programs had enrolled an average of 60 people.В Many grantees are having trouble recruiting at their anticipated pace in the early months, suggesting that enrollment numbers may be lower than grantees had planned.
  • Grantees surveyed feel the WtW eligibility criteria are too strict.В While many of the hardestВ­toВ­employ are being served or will be served, still more who face very similar problems could benefit from WtW services if eligibility categories were modified.В Most grantees report that current eligibility criteria exclude some people from their programs who have serious barriers to employment, most notably individuals who have earned a high school credential but still have low skill levels.2



1. We use the word "grantees" to refer to local organizations that are either receiving competitive grants directly from DOL or receiving formula funds through their state.

2. In its proposal to reauthorize the WtW program, the Administration addresses this issue by advocating that eligibility criteria be changed to allow WtW services to reach more people with the kinds of difficult employment problems that the program is designed to overcome.