Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Introduction


One of the major elements of the welfare reform act is the requirement that states mandate adults to participate in welfare-to-work programs as a condition of their receiving cash assistance. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconc1iliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 requires states to meet new and more stringent participation requirements for adults receiving assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The TANF participation requirements replace those established by the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program created by the Family Support Act of 1988.

Participation requirements in welfare-to-work programs require states to involve a certain portion of their welfare population in welfare-to-work activities or face financial penalties. In JOBS and TANF, participation in welfare-to-work programs is measured by a monthly participation rate  a ratio which represents the number of individuals who participate in the welfare-to-work program (the numerator) out of all those expected to participate (the denominator). The stringency of the participation requirement is dependent on both the level of the rate states are expected to meet and how the numerator and denominator of the rate are defined.

To provide an understanding of participation mandate changes between the JOBS and TANF programs, this paper provides a comparison of the participation requirements under the two programs. The paper explores the key ways in which the measurement of participation  as expressed by the monthly participation rate  varies in these two programs. The first section of the paper examines the proportion of the welfare caseload states are expected to involve in welfare-to-work activities under JOBS and TANF. The second section explains how the denominator of the rate is defined under the two programs; this is followed by a discussion of how the numerator of the rate is defined. Finally, the paper discusses factors that may affect a states ability to achieve the expected levels of participation.