Iowa's Limited Benefit Plan. C. Origin of the LBP Study


PROMISE JOBS began assigning welfare clients to the LBP approximately half a year after the implementation of FIP. The first assignment was made in April 1994. Approximately 700 clients per month were assigned to the LBP in the remainder of 1994 and in 1995. Beginning in October 1994 and continuing through 1995, approximately 150 to 175 active cases per month reached the seventh month of the LBP, when all cash assistance was terminated. The magnitude of these flows were such that the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), which administers FIP and the LBP, perceived a need to know more about the cases in the LBP: What are their characteristics? Why were they assigned to the LBP? How are they faring without cash assistance? However, DHS's existing contract for a broad evaluation of its welfare reform program included no provision for a focused study of the LBP.

By the spring of 1995, the national press had become aware that Iowa was terminating cash assistance for some welfare cases. Interest by the national press in this process and in the affected cases was heightened by the then-active debate on federal welfare reform and, more specifically, by the issues of time-limited cash benefits and work requirements that were central to that debate. Despite the temporary nature of the LBP's benefit termination and its restriction to PROMISE JOBS-mandatory cases that do not meet employment and training requirements, these organizations saw Iowa's experience as an indication of how welfare recipients might be affected by the sudden loss of cash benefits, as would occur under broader time limits. Reporters from The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times inquired as to whether the evaluation of welfare reform in Iowa had produced information on LBP cases whose cash assistance had been terminated. They were told that it had not. Finding little information on LBP cases whose cash assistance had ceased, reporters from The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune visited Iowa and, with considerable difficulty, located and interviewed several such cases. These efforts by the national press to gather information on the LBP and the affected welfare cases made DHS aware that interest in the LBP extended well beyond Iowa's borders.

In light of its own need for information on the LBP and strong national interest in the program, DHS was receptive to a proposal submitted by its welfare reform evaluation contractors--Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) and the Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED)--for a focused, systematic study of the LBP. DHS, MPR, and ISED presented the proposal to several potential sources of funding for the study. These organizations responded enthusiastically to the proposal. Four foundations and two federal government agencies provided financial support for the study, which began in October 1995. The sponsors of the LBP Study are:

  • The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
  • The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • The Northwest Area Foundation
  • The Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services