The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Changes in the WtW Legislation

01/29/2005

As WtW grant programs were being implemented beginning in 1999, it became clear that the strict eligibility criteria and the "70-30" spending requirement were contributing to slow enrollment. In response, Congress modified the WtW legislation in 1999 as part of the FY 2000 appropriations legislation for DOL, DHHS, the U.S. Department of Education (ED), and related agencies. The amendments left in place the requirement that 70 percent of WtW funds be spent on a defined category of participants, and the "70-30" spending requirement still applies to tribal WtW programs, except for those tribes that have incorporated WtW into a 477 plan. However, to make it easier for TANF recipients and noncustodial parents to qualify for WtW services under the 70 percent category, the amendments broadened the population in two ways:

  1. TANF participants qualify simply by being long-term recipients. The amendments removed the requirement that long-term TANF recipients exhibit additional barriers to employment. TANF recipients are eligible if they have received assistance for at least 30 months, are within 12 months of reaching a time limit, or have exhausted their TANF benefits due to time limits.
  2. Noncustodial parents qualify under less restrictive rules. Noncustodial parents are eligible if they meet each of three criteria: (1) they are unemployed, are underemployed, or are having difficulty making child support payments; (2) the custodial parent or minor child is a long-term TANF recipient, or the minor child received TANF in the past year, or the minor child is eligible for or receives assistance under the Food Stamp, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, or CHIP programs; and (3) they make a commitment to establish paternity, pay child support, and participate in services to improve their prospects for employment and paying child support.

The definition of the 30 percent category was also broadened to include youths 18 to 24 years of age who received foster care prior to age 18, custodial parents (regardless of TANF status) with income below the poverty level, and TANF recipients who face other barriers to employment specified by states in consultation with the local Workforce Investment Board (WIB).(3) Other program changes were also made that expand the types of services allowed and simplify some administrative requirements: (1) allowing WtW funds to be used for preemployment vocational education and job training for up to six calendar months; (2) allowing grantees that are not WIBs to provide job readiness, placement, and postemployment services directly rather than only through contracts or vouchers; (3) streamlining reporting requirements; and (4) permitting child support enforcement agencies to share certain information on noncustodial parents with WIBs, to help the WIBs contact and recruit individuals about participation in the WtW program.