The following pages summarize selected earlier reports on the results of the National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, undertaken by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., and its subcontractors the Urban Institute and Support Services International.
Targeted Help for the Hard to Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs
This report examines the outcomes of participants in two programs that were central to Philadelphias WtW strategy: the Regional Service Centers (RSCs) and the Transitional Work Corporation (TWC). These programs differed in that the RSCs offered 30 days of basic job search assistance to the broad WtW-eligible population, while TWC provided paid work experience for up to six months and targeted those with little or no work experience. The study examined the employment, earnings, and TANF receipt outcomes of participants in these programs. Key findings included the following:
- TWC and RSC participants worked more, earned more, and were less likely to receives TANF after program entry. Participants in both programs had increases in employment immediately after program entry, followed by declines. One-and-a-half years after program entry, participants from both programs still had higher employment rates than before program entry. They also had higher earnings and lower rates of TANF receipt than before program entry.
- Consistent with the targeting and sequencing of the programs, RSC and TWC participants differed in their outcomes over time. RSC participants had higher rates of employment, higher earnings, and lower rates of TANF receipt than TWC participants one and a half years after program entry. However, RSC and TWC participants also differed in their employment, earnings, and TANF receipt prior to program entry.
- Observable factors explained RSC and TWC participants difference in employment and some of their differences in earnings and TANF receipt. Controlling for demographic characteristics, prior work and TANF receipt, and economic conditions accounts for the simple observed differences in the percentage of RSC and TWC participants employed one and a half years after program entry. Differences in earnings and TANF receipt remained, with about one-third of the difference explained by these observable factors.
- Further research is needed to clarify how programs like the RSCs and TWC contribute to participant outcomes. The results offer a hint that the intensive TWC intervention might have partially made up for the greater employment challenges faced by TWC participants. However, the study raises questions that only a more rigorous evaluation can answer most notably, how did TWC participants outcomes compare to how they would have fared in the absence of this intervention?
[Full report: Targeted Help for the Hard to Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs]
Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs: Adjusting to Changing Circumstances
This report, based on telephone calls to WtW grant administrators in 2003, documented program status, future plans, program adjustments, and lessons from WtW. Most programs were phasing down at the time of this study two sites completed their grant periods in 2001; the others in late 2003 or early 2004. Enrollment continued until about six months before the grant ended. About one month before the end-date, remaining participants were usually transferred to other, mainly WIA-funded, programs. In half the sites, there was increased emphasis on particular groups, especially noncustodial fathers. Among the main findings were:
- In most sites, long-term funding for programs was uncertain. Administrators were especially concerned about whether TANF or WIA funds would be available to serve participants who were hardest to employ. Some programs (in about two-thirds of the sites) expected being able to continue for a year or two using TANF or WIA funds.
- No adjustments were made due to TANF or WIA policies or the economy. Although many participants hit time limits, WtW and TANF were able to help for example, via more job development, or moving cases to state-funded welfare. There was some concern that one-stop career centers might not be sensitive to welfare recipients, but in only one study site did a center decrease its priority on welfare clients in 2003. Despite the slow economy in 2003, participants were still able to find jobs, but it took longer and they had fewer options (e.g., lower wages, fewer hours per week). Employer partnerships, however, were harder to maintain because firms were less able to commit to hiring individuals who successfully completed the programs.
- Grantee administrators were generally positive about the WtW grants program and its legacy. In particular, they cited (1) the local flexibility in program design and (2) the momentum to increase collaboration among WIA, TANF agencies, and community-based organizations. The report noted several key lessons learned from the WtW programs, chiefly:
- Complicated eligibility criteria contribute to operational difficulties. Program startup was delayed as inter-agency agreements were developed to verify eligibility and refer individuals from TANF. Congress broadened eligibility in 1999, in a move welcomed by programs, but to little effect. Programs had already been designed, service contracts were in effect, and WtW-TANF agreements continued to use the original rules.
- Longer-term or permanent funding is important when targeting hard-to-serve groups. Program development, recruitment, and referral took longer than expected. The five-year period was considered too short.
- More specific technical assistance on service issues is important. Grantees were glad to have discretion in programming, but reported that they would have liked more help on some issues, such as understanding TANF policies, performance goals, and data systems, and effective recruitment and outreach strategies.
[Full report: Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs: Adjusting to Changing Circumstances ]
Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program
This report examined a special initiative called SHARE (Support Has a Rewarding Effect) that operated with WtW grant support and targeted noncustodial parents (NCPs) in three counties in the state of Washington. SHARE offered three options to NCPs whose children were receiving TANF and who were in arrears of their child support obligations: (1) start paying support, (2) enroll in a WtW program, or (3) face possible incarceration. The main objective of the study was to examine the employment, earnings, and child support outcomes from this innovative collaboration involving the welfare system, child support enforcement agencies, the workforce investment system, and employment and training providers. Key findings included the following:
- NCPs took different paths through SHARE. About half of the targeted NCPs appeared at a mandatory hearing at which the program was explained to them. Many NCPs never learned about SHARE because staff could not locate them.
- NCPs worked more, earned more, and paid more child support after referral to SHARE than before. The employment rate among all NCPs referred to SHARE increased from one-quarter just before referral to one-third in the quarter of referral, and remained about one-third for the following nine quarters. Average earnings increased 39 percent between the quarter immediately preceding referral and the quarter of referral, and continued to climb. The rate of child support payment nearly doubled just after referral and consistently exceeded pre-referral highs.
- Outcomes improved for NCPs who took part in SHARE, but also for those who did not. NCPs who appeared at a hearing and learned about SHARE nevertheless had higher employment rates, average earnings, and child support payments than NCPs who never appeared at such a hearing.
- SHARE probably contributed to the observed increases in employment, earnings, and child support payments. Factors other than SHARE such as unobserved characteristics of the NCPs or natural ebbs and flows in their employment and ability to pay support probably played some role in the outcomes observed. However, differences in key outcomes for NCPs who took different paths through the initiative insignificant before referral to SHARE become more marked and significant after referral to the program. This suggests that all or some of SHAREs components may have played a role in the improvements observed for NCPs who did engage in the initiative.
[ Full report: Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program]
The Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program
The evaluations process and implementation component was the subject of this report, which described the service delivery operations of WtW-funded programs in 11 study sites. The findings based on formal site visits, interviews with administrators and staff, and analyses of program management data included:
- The programs were decentralized. There were more than 90 programs some operating in multiple locations that used varying service delivery organizations and different arrangements for collaboration with TANF agencies. WIBs were the most common grantee, and most had a formal arrangement with TANF agencies; for example, to operate all or part of the TANF work program. Nonprofit organizations (and one university) also played a major role, typically as program operators under subcontract to a WtW grantee or as providers of special services.
- Sites used one of three general program models, reflecting their primary approach. Among the 11 sites, the following approaches were identified: (1) Enhanced Direct Employment Models, which emphasized individualized pre-employment job search assistance, counseling, case management, and post-employment support; (2) Developmental/Transitional Employment Models emphasizing skills development, usually in a transitional, subsidized, or community service job; and (3) Intensive Post- Employment Skills Development Models, wherein the dual objectives were job retention and skills development for individuals who have already started a job.
- Employment pathways varied, but most enrollees who found employment received only job readiness and search assistance. In the eight sites where data were available, about half of the participants obtained regular unsubsidized employment. Regardless of the program model, about 60 percent of participants who became employed, did so with just job search assistance or job readiness services. Another 20 percent became employed after participating in a transitional or subsidized job, and 5 percent after receiving job training or education. The rest (15 percent) received a mix of services from the program (job search assistance along with a transitional job and possibly training or education.
- Sites used several innovative strategies. While this component of the evaluation did not address program effectiveness, a number of potentially promising approaches were identified in the sites. Among these were: (1) extensive involvement of nonprofit organizations as program operators and special service providers, particularly to provide services to special populations; (2) collaborations with employers for example, in designing pre-employment components, sponsoring internships, and partnering with post-employment skills development; and (3) transitional work components, such as paid community service jobs, part-time community service job plus wrap-around education, supervised temporary employment, sheltered workshops, and on-the-job training. Nearly all grantees operated the latter to some extent, with the aim of providing a bridge to regular employment.
- The findings suggest a number of policy and operations lessons for serving welfare recipients and low-income parents with employment problems. Among them: (1) detailed eligibility and fiscal provisions can delay program implementation; (2) temporary funding and authority imposes added challenges to program implementation; (3) programs benefit from public and private partnerships and collaborations at the local level; and (4) carefully designed programs can reach populations with serious employment problems particularly those utilizing nonprofit community-based organizations and systematic outreach and recruitment efforts, and offering comprehensive services.
[Full report: The Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program]
Doing What It Takes: Understanding the Costs of DOL Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs, Final Report
This report examined the costs of 18 WtW programs in nine sites that operated with federal grant support. The main objectives of the analysis were to understand the cost structure of selected programs, and the factors influencing it. Program evaluators and planners should find this information useful in assessing the outcomes of WtW programs and in making decisions about future programs with similar objectives. Key findings from the study included the following:
- The average WtW program spent $3,607 to serve each participant. The least costly WtW program spent $1,887 per participant, while the most costly spent $6,641.
- WtW costs per participant reflected meaningful differences in program design. Variations in WtW costs per participant reflected three dominant service approaches. Enhanced Direct Employment programs (average cost: $3,559) emphasized quick entry to employment while also offering pre-employment preparation and retention support. Transitional Employment programs either emphasized paid work experience (average cost: $4,346) or helped WtW participants prepare for jobs with employer partners (average cost: $4,513). Post-employment Services programs cost less (average cost: $2,178) because they provided mostly intensive case management to already employed individuals.
- WtW programs cost more than WIN, less than Supported Work, and about the same as JOBS programs. Differences in WtW costs per participant as compared to earlier interventions reflected three factors. First, WtW programs targeted hard-toemploy individuals who were excluded from participation mandates (as in WIN) or often deferred from participation (as in WIN and JOBS). Second, although WtW programs did not emphasize education and training (as in JOBS), they sought to build a foundation for employment through direct work experience and other skill upgrade activities more closely linked to employment. Third, to maintain their simultaneous focus on employment and human capital development for hard-to-employ participants, WtW programs expanded case management and other services. Nevertheless, WtW efforts were not as comprehensive as those undertaken by Supported Work programs.
- Future efforts could cost as much as, or more than, WtW. Expanded individual and aggregate TANF work requirements may motivate states to continue to focus on hardto- employ individuals and even intensify elements such as structured job readiness, paid work experience, or post-placement case management which could raise average costs. Increased flexibility in program design could also lead to greater use of education and training activities, which might also be costly.
[Full report: Doing What It Takes: Understanding the Costs of DOL Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs, Final Report]
Serving Noncustodial Parents: A Descriptive Study of Welfare-to-Work Programs
This report examines the strategies used by 11 WtW grantees to design programs for and delivery services to low-income noncustodial parents (NCPs). Two of the sites were in-depth study grantees for the formal WtW evaluation; the other nine were selected to represent a range of services and approaches. Six of the programs were operated by workforce development agencies, four by nonprofit community-based organizations, and one by a corrections department. The programs brought together a wide range of partners, including workforce development agencies, child support agencies, courts, and TANF agencies. For most grantees, the availability of the WtW funds often spurred an interest in or further impetus for serving NCPs.
- Programs used similar services, focusing primarily on job search assistance. All programs conducted some type of employability assessment and job search assistance (usually in a group setting) and post-employment support to help participants retain jobs. The programs also provided a case manager for each participant. Some programs offered education and job training, but most participants were uninterested, preferring to get a regular job. Parenting and relationship services were typically not emphasized, although a few programs placed high priority on these issues (all programs could refer participants to other special agencies for assistance).
- A variety of public and private organizations can establish and operate programs for NCPS. no single model or provider is necessarily preferable, and collaboration among agencies can ensure a range of services to address families varied problems
- Outreach and recruitment are major components of and challenges to NCP programs. The target population was difficult to reach and often initially reluctant to participate, fearing repercussions from the child support enforcement agency. Programs developed a variety of approaches to outreach and to retaining participants in the program once enrolled.
- A combination of positive incentives and pressures may prove more successful than either a voluntary or harshly punitive program. Positive incentives may not only enhance outcomes, but facilitate recruitment. Among the positive incentives for participating were employment services, transportation assistance, vouchers for workrelated expenses, and help in communicating with the child support agency. Requirements and sanctions in some programs took the form of a threat of incarceration for nonpayment of child support. Most programs, though, were voluntary.
- Helping NCPs understand and navigate the child support enforcement system may be an important program service. Most of the programs incorporated some focus on child support, including helping participants work with child support, often with a designated worker at the child support agency.
[Full report: Serving Noncustodial Parents: A Descriptive Study of Welfare-to-Work Programs]
Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings from a Second Survey of the Welfare to Work Grants Program
This report documented the continuing implementation progress of the WtW grants program. To capture changes as program implementation advanced, the survey of WtW grantees nationwide, noted above, was repeated in late 1999. Although this second survey identified signs of progress, it also found that the eligibility criteria continued to constrain enrollment (Congressional action to expand the eligible population had not yet taken effect at the time of the survey). Other findings suggested some operational changes, but confirmed many of the findings from the first survey. The main findings from the second survey were as follows:
- WtW program implementation had advanced but participation levels still lagged. Most grantees, except those who were recently funded, were delivering services and operating at a somewhat larger scale than that observed in the first survey a yearearlier. However, restrictive eligibility rules still in effect in late 1999 continued to impede enrollment. As a result, the average pace of enrollment had not increased.
- The scale at which WtW programs were projected to operate remained modest. Respondents to the second survey had formulated more conservative participation targets, largely reflecting the enrollment difficulties encountered prior to the survey. Despite the declines in TANF rolls, survey respondents perceived no decline in overall need for WtW services.
- Grantees emphasized unsubsidized employment but set realistic placement goals. While an unsubsidized job was the ultimate goal for all WtW participants, respondents expected some program attrition and had some reservations about the availability of jobs. They anticipated placing somewhat less than half of all WtW enrollees in unsubsidized employment.
- Most placements to date had been in low-wage, service occupations. Grantees moved expeditiously to place WtW participants enrolled in their programs. They succeeded in placing about a quarter of their projected placements more than 50,000 individuals. Most participants were placed in services and administrative support positions, which were available even to those with limited skills and poor work history. Participants placement wages averaged just $6.81 per hour and opportunities for advancement appeared limited.
[Full report: Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings from a Second Survey of the Welfare to Work Grants Program]
Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Report to Congress
This report responded to a congressional mandate for rapid findings on WtW program implementation. Responses to an early survey of WtW grantees nationwide, conducted at the end of 1998, provided an outline of the federally funded WtW programs and their initial start-up experiences. The WtW grantee survey provided an overall description of program structure, sponsorship, target populations, services provided, scale of operations, outcomes achieved, and challenges encountered. Early survey findings included the following:
- From the outset, WtW programs emphasized rapid attachment to supportive work. WtW grantees allocated substantial resources to getting participants quickly into work activities. In addition, the grantees emphasized supported employment through wage subsidies and worksite training over simple placement in regular jobs.
- Grantees were in the very early stages of implementation. About half of the grantees surveyed were not awarded grants until the latter part of 1998, and it took them several months to begin delivering services. By late 1998, about 40 percent of grantees had started enrolling participants but each had enrolled an average of only 60 people. Many grantees were having trouble recruiting at their anticipated pace in the early months, suggesting that overall enrollment numbers could be lower than grantees had planned.
- Grantees felt that the WtW eligibility criteria were too strict. Most grantees reported that the original eligibility criteria excluded some people from their programs who had serious barriers to employment, most notably individuals who had earned a high school credential but still had low skills.
[Full report: Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Report to Congress]