Families on TANF in Illinois: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Welfare and Employment Experiences


The goal of state TANF programs is to provide temporary assistance to needy families while directing adults in those families to jobs so that their families can become self-sufficient. To promote this transition from welfare to work, the federal government has established minimum work participation rates for the TANF caseload in each state and a 60-month limit on assistance for families. Using the flexibility provided by PRWORA, states have taken a variety of approaches to encouraging TANF recipients to work. Illinois' approach includes both incentives and penalties. For instance, the state (1) stops the 60-month TANF "clock" for working families on assistance, (2) disregards 67 percent of earnings for an indefinite period, and (3) imposes a gradual sanction on families that do not comply with work requirements. As a result of these policies, the Illinois TANF caseload includes both working and nonworking families.

In this chapter, we describe the welfare and employment experiences of single-parent TANF recipients in Illinois. We examine both the amount of time they have spent on welfare and their current work experience, including the number of hours they work, the characteristics of their jobs, and the amount of money they earn. We also discuss their total household income and conclude with a summary of their circumstances.

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