Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings From a Second Survey of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. Grantees Are Focusing on the Hardest to Employ, Sometimes with Specialized Programs


Most grantees have organized their programs to help the WtW-eligible population without segmenting participants into separate program paths, based on their characteristics. With the substantial declines in TANF caseloads even since a few years ago, when the BBA was passed, this general-purpose structure avoids overly specialized programs that might serve few participants. About 60 percent of grantees reported — in the second survey, as in the first — that they simply serve all individuals who meet WtW eligibility criteria. Even within such "untargeted" programs, of course, there are often variations in services delivered and participants' activities, based on individual assessments.

Many grantees, however, operate distinct programs within their overall WtW initiative, and in many instances these distinct programs are a framework in which to focus on particular services, on subgroups of the WtW-eligible population, or both. On average, grantees reported in the second survey that they operate almost three distinct programs (Table II.6).(5) Some of these programs are defined as having a distinct target group.

The pattern of multiple programs and their size suggest that grantees generally devote most of their resources to a core WtW program, although they may also reserve some funds to deal with participants with special needs or in special locations. Although grantees, on average, operate 2.8 distinct programs, they devote an average of about 69 percent of their WtW funds to a single program or to their largest program. A few grantees probably are using an initial screening, or their recruiting methods, to single out individuals with special characteristics who might be better served by a particular program — for example, individuals with demonstrated substance abuse problems, noncustodial parents, residents of particular public housing projects, or people with disabilities. However, site visits and other contacts with WtW grantees suggest that most WtW programs do not use such centralized intake and client referral procedures.

  Overall Formula-Only Grantees Competitive-Only Grantees
Number of Program Initiatives Supported with Federal WtW Funds 2.81 2.71 2.54
Percentage of Applicable WtW Funding Devoted to Single or Largest WtW Program 68.6 67.3 76.4
Ratio of Number of WtW-Funded Program Initiatives to Number of Grants Received 2.44 2.48 2.53
Source: National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Second Grantee Survey (November 1999 - February 2000).

The programs that WtW grantees describe as distinctly targeted are likely to consist mainly of programs operated by different service providers. The aim of these providers sometimes continues to be serving the general WtW-eligible population. As in the first survey, many "targeted" programs are described as focusing on people with all of the federally prescribed eligibility criteria (Table II.7). However, 13 percent of the 1,335 distinct programs described by the 475 grantees who reported on their WtW program structure appear to be more narrowly targeted. These "narrowly targeted" programs serve people who are described by grantees using four or fewer of 12 possible criteria.(6)


  Second Grantee Survey
Percentage of grantee respondents with at least one program that targets particular subgroups within the larger population of WtW eligibles 39.7
Average number of targeted WtW program initiatives per responding granteea 1.8
Percentage of WtW program initiatives that can be considered narrowly targetedb 13.2
Targeting criteria used in narrowly targeted programs (percent of narrowly targeted programs)c -
- No high school diploma or GED and low math/reading skills - 18.2
- Poor work history - 16.7
- Substance abuse problems - 17.1
- Nearing or past TANF time limit - 3.8
- Long-term recipient of public assistance - 17.7
- Teenage parent - 1.3
- Noncustodial parents - 38.5
- Public housing resident - 5.2
- People with disabilities - 14.1
- School dropouts - 3.2
- Limited English proficiency - 11.2
- Victims of domestic violence 3.4
Source: National Evaluation of the Welfare to Work Grants Program, Second Grantee Survey (November 1999 - February 2000).

a Data include grantees’ five largest programs. In the case of 13 grantees that indicate they operate more than five WtW programs, the smaller ones beyond the first five are excluded.

b Percent is of all distinct programs reported by grantee respondents to the second survey (n=1,335).

c Percents are for the subset of programs that will rely on four or fewer of the WtW eligibility criteria to target participants (n=176).

Among programs identified from the second grantee survey as narrowly targeted, the target groups most commonly cited resemble those identified in the first survey. Long-term TANF recipients who lack a high school diploma or GED and who have low math or reading skills, and noncustodial parents were most often reported as the intended clients of narrowly targeted programs. Thus, even these targeting strategies reflect a focus on the major groups of eligible individuals as defined under the BBA.

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