Columbus's integrated and traditional programs were operated under the Family Support Act (FSA) of 1988. The FSA required states to provide education, employment, and support services to Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients, who were, in turn, required to participate in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program created by the act to equip them for work. (The abbreviated AFDC and JOBS are used throughout this report.)
In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which replaced AFDC with a block grant program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The law limits most families to five years of federal assistance and created financial incentives for states to run mandatory, work-focused welfare-to-work programs. States must meet work program participation rates that are higher than those under the FSA or face reductions in their TANF block grant amount. Although the PRWORA substantially reformed the nation's welfare policies, its overarching goal is similar to the goal of the FSA: to foster the economic self-sufficiency of welfare recipients through increased employment and decreased welfare receipt.
Columbus (and the rest of Ohio) began operating its TANF program in October 1997, after the follow-up period covered in this report. Ohio Works First, as the name suggests, shifted the focus from building welfare recipients' skills through education to quickly engaging them in jobs. Among other changes, the program limits recipients to three years of cash benefits (with up to two additional years of benefits available under certain circumstances) and increased the severity of penalties for noncompliance with program requirements. At the same time, Columbus began to use integrated case management for all TANF recipients.