The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Making Welfare a Transistion to Work


o Work requirements.

Under the new law, recipients must work after two years on assistance, with few exceptions. Twenty-five percent of all families in each state must be engaged in work activities or have left the rolls in fiscal year (FY) 1997, rising to 50 percent in FY 2002. Single parents must participate for at least 20 hours per week the first year, increasing to at least 30 hours per week by FY 2000. Two-parent families must work 35 hours per week by July 1, 1997.

o Supports for families transitioning into jobs.

The new welfare law provides $14 billion in child care funding over six years -- an increase of $3.5 billion over current law -- to help more mothers move into jobs. The new law also guarantees that women on welfare continue to receive health coverage for their families, including at least one year of transitional Medicaid when they leave welfare for work.

o Work Activities.

To count toward state work requirements, recipients will be required to participate in unsubsidized or subsidized employment, on-the-job training, work experience, community service, 12 months of vocational training, or provide child care services to individuals who are participating in community service. Up to 6 weeks of job search (no more than 4 consecutive weeks) would count toward the work requirement. However, no more than 20 percent of each state's caseload may count toward the work requirement solely by participating in vocational training or by being a teen parent in secondary school. Single parents with a child under 6 who cannot find child care cannot be penalized for failure to meet the work requirements. States can exempt from the work requirement single parents with children under age one and disregard these individuals in the calculation of participation rates for up to 12 months.

o A five-year time limit.

Families who have received assistance for five cumulative years (or less at state option) will be ineligible for cash aid under the new welfare law. States will be permitted to exempt up to 20 percent of their caseload from the time limit, and states will have the option to provide non-cash assistance and vouchers to families that reach the time limit using Social Services Block Grant or state funds.

o Personal employability plans.

Under the new plan, states are required to make an initial assessment of recipients' skills. States can also develop personal responsibility plans for recipients identifying the education, training, and job placement services needed to move into the workforce.

o State maintenance of effort requirements.

The new welfare law requires states to maintain their own spending on welfare at at least 80 percent of FY 1994 levels. States must also maintain spending at 100 percent of FY 1994 levels to access a $2 billion contingency fund designed to assist states affected by high population growth or economic downturn. In addition, states must maintain 100 percent of FY 1994 or FY 1995 spending on child care (whichever is greater) to access additional child care funds beyond their initial allotment.

o Job subsidies.

The law also allows states to create jobs by taking money now used for welfare checks and using it to create community service jobs or to provide income subsidies or hiring incentives for potential employers.

o Performance bonus to reward work.

$1 billion will be available between FYs 1999-2003 for performance bonuses to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs. The Secretary of HHS, in consultation with the National Governors' Association (NGA) and American Public Welfare Association (APWA), will develop criteria for measuring state performance.

o State flexibility.

Under the new law, states which receive approval for welfare reform waivers before July 1, 1997 have the option to operate their cash assistance program under some or all of these waivers. For states electing this option, some provisions of the new law which are inconsistent with the waivers would not take effect until the expiration of the applicable waivers in the geographical areas covered by the waivers.