ReWORKing Welfare Technical Assistance for States and Localities. 10. Tailoring Work First to the Program's Goals


The program mix you choose will depend partly on the program's goals. Work first programs are generally geared toward the goals of increasing the number of case heads of household who work, reducing welfare rolls, and saving welfare dollars. A work first approach may not be appropriate for programs with very different goals. At the same time, however, programs may have additional or secondary goals that can be accommodated within a work first model. Planners of such programs should think about including activities, options, and related policies that can further those goals. For example, a program with the goal of increasing family income might consider adding to its policy mix increased earnings disregards and more generous child care and other benefits to make work pay, and allowing more opportunity for participants to combine work with education and training that can increase their earnings.

Table 1 outlines some of the ways in which the program model and emphasis might vary among programs, depending on their goals. While the basic work first model remains the same, the mix of policies and practices can differ.

Table 1

Program Goals and Related Program Features

Program Goal                      Possible Program Features               

Reduce the number of      Job search geared to full-time employment             
families on welfare       Continued participation in program activities until   
                          off welfare                                           

Increase employment       Job search geared to either part-time or full-time    
among families on         employment                                            
welfare                   Support for combining work and welfare                

Increase the income of    Increased earnings disregards, child care             
families                  assistance, and other benefits to make work pay       
                          Job search and job development geared to              
                          higher-paying jobs                                    
                          More opportunity allowed for education or training    
                          that can increase earnings                            

Impose a reciprocal       Mandatory participation for a broad portion of the    
obligation on welfare     caseload                                              
recipients                Swift and strict sanctions for nonparticipation       
                          More use of unpaid work experience and/or subsidized  
                          jobs to engage those who are unable to find           
                          unsubsidized employment                               

Keep applicants from      Applicant job search and one-time payments to help    
becoming long-term        applicants avoid coming on welfare                    
recipients                Emphasis on getting people quickly into the program   

Move long-term            More marketing of work and teaching basic work        
recipients into jobs      habits                                                
                          Supervised work experience and job development for    
                          those unable to find jobs on their own                

Reduce recidivism         Transitional benefits and support services for those  
                          who leave welfare                                     
                          Help with obtaining work-related benefits, such as    
                          the Earned Income Credit                              
                          Reemployment assistance for those who lose a job      

Improve the well-being    Help with obtaining high-quality child care           
of children               Focus on increasing total family income               
                          Monitoring of child outcomes                          

Achieve short-term        Mostly job search, with few other activities for      
savings                   participants                                          
                          Close monitoring of participation                     
                          Swift and strict sanctions for noncompliance          

Aim for longer-term       Job search supplemented by other employment-focused   
cost-effectiveness        activities                                            
                          More attention to serving long-term recipients        
                          Focus on reducing recidivism