Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . What Activities Count Toward the Participation Rate?

12/01/2000

A final element in determining whether an individual counts toward a states participation requirement is examining the types of activities recipients must participate in. As with the other factors, the two programs take very different approaches regarding what types of activities individuals can participate in to count toward the rate. While the JOBS program took a relatively expansive approach regarding what counted, TANF narrows the type of activities and requires participation in more work-focused activities.

For the JOBS overall rate, a wide range of employment-related, education, and training activities counted toward the participation requirement. As summarized in Table 7, these included job development and placement; job skills training; educational activities (including high school and equivalency programs, basic and remedial education, and English as a Second Language (ESL)); group and individual job search (for up to eight weeks); community work experience; work supplementation; on-the-job training; and post-secondary education. Non-exempt custodial parents under the age of 20 who had not completed high school (or its equivalent) were required to participate in educational activities. Individuals who entered a job were also counted as participants if they engaged in a JOBS activity during the month of job entry or during the preceding month.

Table 7
Activities that Count Toward the Participation Requirement Under the JOBS and TANF Programs
Countable Activities in the JOBS Program Countable Activities in the TANF Program
  • Job development and placement
  • Job skills training
  • Educational activities (including high school and equivalency programs, basic and remedial education, and English as a Second Language (ESL))
  • Group and individual job search (for up to eight weeks)
  • Community work experience
  • Work supplementation
  • On-the-job training
  • Post-secondary education
  • Employment for those engaged in a JOBS activity during the month of job entry or during the preceding month.
At least 20 hours (30 hours for two-parent families) must be spent in the following:
  • Unsubsidized employment
  • Subsidized employment
  • Work experience
  • On-the-job training
  • Job search and job readiness activities
  • Community service programs
  • Vocational educational training (for up to 12 months per person)
  • Provision of child care services to a person participating in community service

The remaining required hours may be in the above or any of the following activities:

  • Job skills training directly related to employment
  • Education directly related to employment (for those with no high school diploma)
  • Secondary school or program leading to a certificate of general equivalence (for those with no high school diploma)

The requirements for meeting the two-parent rate under JOBS were more stringent. JOBS required individuals in these families to participate 16 hours per week in a work supplementation program, a community work experience program, on-the-job training, or other types of work programs. For both the overall and two-parent rates, individuals who were working less than 30 hours per week were not counted in the rates at all under JOBS, while those working more than 30 hours per week were exempted from the rates.

The TANF statute is much more prescriptive with respect to the types of activities that count toward a states participation rate. As summarized in Table 7, in order to count a participant for a month in any year, at least 20 hours per week for all families and 30 hours per week for two-parent families(8) must be spent in one or more of the following activities; unsubsidized employment, subsidized private or public sector employment, work experience, on-the-job training, job search and job readiness activities (for up to six weeks total per individual  or 12 weeks if the state meets the definition of a needy state(9)  but not for more than four consecutive weeks), community service programs, and vocational educational training (for up to 12 months per person), and the provision of child care services to a person participating in community service.

The remaining required hours may be in any of the above or the following activities: job skills training directly related to employment and, for those who do not have a high school diploma or equivalent, education directly related to employment or satisfactory attendance in a secondary school or in a course of study leading to a certificate of general equivalence. Teen heads of household can count toward the participation rate by maintaining satisfactory attendance in high school or the equivalent (regardless of the number of hours) or by participating in education directly related to employment for at least 20 hours per week.

The TANF program has specific rules that limit the number of individuals who can count toward the participation requirement by attending education and training activities. For FYs 1997-1999, no more than 30 percent of those individuals who count toward the rate can do so by participating in vocational educational training. In FY 2000 and thereafter, no more than 30 percent of those counted can meet the requirements by either participating in vocational education training or being a teen head of household in school.

Similar to other TANF provisions, states with one or more work program waivers (see above) in effect prior to the passage of the TANF can continue counting the activities allowed under JOBS or the activities allowed through their waiver. Once the waiver expires, however, states will be required to use the definition of program activities established by TANF.

It should be noted that there is some overlap in the types of activities allowed under JOBS and TANF  such as job search and on-the-job training. In some cases the overlap is not always clear because different terms are used for activities that are actually very similar. For example, both programs allow subsidized employment, work experience, and vocational training to count toward the participation requirement  although in JOBS these activities were called work supplementation, community work experience, and job skills training. In both programs, states are given discretion over how the specific activities are defined.

Overall, the TANF law narrows the type of activities that count toward the participation rate and focuses those that do count on work and work-related activities. Education and training activities  a major component in the JOBS program  only count toward the TANF participation rate in limited circumstances. Unsubsidized employment  which did not count toward the JOBS participation requirement  is a key activity under TANF. Under TANF, over 80 percent of the welfare-to-work program participants were in work or work-related activities (unsubsidized or subsidized employment, work experience, or on-the-job training) compared to seven percent in JOBS.(10)  In contrast, in JOBS about 47 percent of the program participants were involved in education and training activities (vocational and jobs skills training, high school, post secondary education, remedial education, ESL, or education related to employment), while in TANF only 11 percent of the participants received these services (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999, and Administration for Children and Families, 1997). Clearly, TANF has had a significant impact on types of activities provided in welfare-to-work programs.