Performance Improvement 2004. Evaluation of Montana's TANF program: an assessment of welfare reform in a rural setting


This report presents the final results of an evaluation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in Montana, the State’s welfare reform initiative formerly known as the Families Achieving Independence in Montana (FAIM) program. It completes an examination of the experience of a random sample of 1,090 families that received TANF cash assistance and/or Food Stamps in Montana during the four years after the FAIM program was first implemented in February 1996. Much of the analysis presented in this report is based on two statewide surveys of public assistance recipients in Montana. The Families Achieving Independence in Montana (FAIM) project describes and analyzes the flow of individuals through three components: Job Supplement Program (JSP), Pathways, and the Community Services Program (CSP). JSP, the diversion component, provides an alternative to time- limited benefits. JSP offers a one-time cash payment equivalent of up to three months of regular cash grant plus supportive services (such as case management, child care, transportation assistance, and Medicaid) that are not time-limited. The Pathways program (for families who do not opt for JSP) provides cash assistance and supportive services for up to 24 months. Pathways includes intensive case management as well as financial sanctions, immunization requirements, and work participation requirements. CSP provides up to 36 additional months of benefits to families whose heads of households are unable to support themselves after 24 months in Pathways. Participants perform community service activities for 25 to 35 hours a week in exchange for cash benefits. The evaluation also draws on several types of automated program records data and field research data. This report suggests that Montana’s TANF program has promoted family self-sufficiency despite difficult economic conditions. Greater progress toward family self-sufficiency will be possible through job acquisition, retention, and advancement. Major study finding: Montana’s TANF program has recently been under pressure. However, the results of this evaluation do not suggest that the program should be radically changed. Even on Montana’s Indian reservations, a substantial proportion of families that have participated in TANF have continued to move toward financial self-sufficiency.

PIC ID: 8001
Agency Sponsor: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Dubinsky, Michael, 202-401-3442
Performer: Abt Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA

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