Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider. What Opportunities and Limitations are Presented by Work Requirements?


There are two key aspects of work requirements that must be considered when thinking about how TANF work policies affect clients with unobserved barriers to employment. First, states face work participation rates with strict federal requirements regarding how to calculate the rates. Second, states have the flexibility to allow clients to engage in activities beyond those that count toward the rate calculation. Thus, the list of allowable work activities defined by a state may be broader than the activities defined in PRWORA as countable toward work participation rates.43

States vary in terms of both the types of work requirements they impose on TANF recipients (i.e., how soon client must engage in activities and how many hours they must participate) and the types of work activities that are allowed to show compliance with the work requirement. Under federal law, TANF recipients are required to conduct some work activity within 24 months of receiving TANF, but the definition of the work requirement is left to states, and gives states the discretion to impose requirements sooner than 24 months. Below we discuss factors important to determining what activities TANF recipients may engage in and how this decision is influenced by federal work participation rate requirements.

43  States that defined work activities differently under a pre-PRWORA federal waiver than how they are defined under PRWORA can continue to calculate their work participation rate using the state's definition for the duration of the waiver (so long as they noted this "inconsistency" in the state TANF plan). When the waiver expires, the rate will have to be calculated based on the definition of work discussed in this report.

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