A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Assigned Activities

09/01/2004

In identifying the activities to which recipients are assigned, we looked at the following: how often recipients are assigned to activities that are considered in the federal participation rate calculation relative to those that are not; the range of activities to which recipients are assigned; the activities to which case managers most and least often assign recipients; and the mix of activities to which case managers assign recipients (i.e., how often and in what ways they combine activities). For purposes of this discussion, we grouped all program activities into three categories:

  • Core Federally Countable Activities. There are nine activities that count as priority activities in the calculation of the federal participation rate and in which single-parent adult TANF recipients are required to participate for a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to be included in the numerator of the participation rate. These activities include unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, subsidized public sector employment, work experience, on-the-job training, job search and job readiness assistance, community service programs, vocational education training, and providing child care for a community service participant.
  • Other Federally Countable Activities. There are three other activities in which TANF recipients may participate for up to 10 hours in order to meet the 30-hour per week requirement for single parents in the federal participation rate calculation. They include job skills training directly related to employment, education directly related to employment (for high school dropouts only), and satisfactory attendance in secondary school or the equivalent (for high school dropouts only).
  • Nonfederal Activities. These activities are not considered at all in the calculation of the federal participation rate, but are allowable under state or county program rules. They include activities such as physical or mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, domestic violence counseling, and child welfare services.

In the two sites where adequate data were available, El Paso County and Utah, the vast majority of all TANF recipients are assigned to participate in program activities (90 percent and 82 percent, respectively).(2) However, in each site, a sizeable portion of the caseload is assigned to activities that are not considered in the federal participation rate calculation  44 percent in a typical month in El Paso County and 62 percent in a typical month in Utah (see Figure V.1 and V.2). Many clients participate exclusively in nonfederal activities, while others combine nonfederal with federally countable activities. Despite the high number of assignments to nonfederal activities, a substantial portion of the caseload is assigned to at least some activities considered in the federal participation rate, including core and other federally countable activities  just above and just below 60 percent in El Paso County and Utah, respectively. In fact, 46 percent of recipients in El Paso County and 19 percent in Utah are assigned exclusively to federally countable activities, and the majority of these are core activities.

In any given month, some portion of the caseload is not assigned to any program activities  10 percent in a typical month in El Paso County and 17 to 18 percent in a typical month in Utah. The primary explanation for this is that a substantial portion of unassigned recipients either has recently entered the caseload and therefore has not yet been assigned to activities, or is about to exit the caseload and likely already completed their activities altogether. Excluding these individuals, only a small percentage of recipients  roughly 4 percent in El Paso County and 5 percent in Utah  remain on TANF without being assigned to any activities (see Table V.1). It is possible that these recipients are in transition between activities, are waiting for activity slots to become available, are particularly difficult to engage in activities, or have lost contact with their case managers.

Figure V.1.
Assigned Activities In A Typical Month
(El Paso County)

Assigned Activities In A Typical Month  (El Paso County)

Figure V.2.
Assigned Activities In A Typical Month
(Utah)

Assigned Activities In A Typical Month (Utah)

Table V.1.
Tanf Program Status Among Recipients With No Activities
Recipients With No Activities in Percentage
El Paso County Utah
Among All Recipients Among Recipients with No Activities Among All Recipients Among Recipients with No Activities
Cases that opened or closed in typical month* 5.5 54.1 6.6 39.8
Cases that opened in previous month     4.2 25.3
Cases that closed in following month 0.2 2.5 0.6 3.8
Other cases 4.4 43.4 5.2 31.0
Sample Size 1204 122 6187 1109
* In El Paso County, most cases that "opened" were reinstated  that is, the cases were closed, but reopened within 30 days. Cases that were reinstated may have been reinstated in typical month or before. Data on case openings prior to typical month are not available for El Paso County.

As noted in Chapter III, the list of activities to which recipients can be assigned is extremely extensive. El Paso County has more than 27 activities, 17 of which are considered in the federal participation rate calculation and the remainder of which are not. Utah has more than 70 activities to which recipients can be assigned, 37 of which are considered in the federal participation rate calculation and the remainder of which are not.

By far, the prevailing activities in which El Paso County and Utah TANF recipients participate are job search/job readiness activities and nonfederal activities. In El Paso County, the largest percentage of recipients assigned to any activities (47 percent) is assigned to job search/job readiness activities followed by nonfederal activities (38 percent). In Utah, the largest percentage is assigned to nonfederal activities (62 percent) followed by job search/job readiness activities (32 percent) (see Table V.2). In both sites, unsubsidized employment is the next most common activity, though only about 14 percent of recipients are assigned to employment.

Table V.2.
Most Common Assigned Activities Among All Recipients in a Typical Month
  El Paso County Utah
Job search / job readiness 46.9% 61.9%
Nonfederal activities 38.0 31.6
Employment (full-time in El Paso) 13.8 14.5
Case management 12.0  
Education with no HS degree 7.8 13.6
Job skills training 5.8 13.5

Unlike the El Paso County data, the Utah data contain codes identifying specific activities within the broad category of nonfederal activities. The most common nonfederal activities in Utah are related to issues in three areas: child care  for instance, looking for child care or resolving child care problems  child support enforcement, and physical health treatment (see Table V.3). Other common nonfederal activities include mental health treatment, activities related to other support services  such as life skills activities not considered to be job readiness activities  and pursuing SSI benefits. These two groups of activities account for two-thirds of all nonfederal activities in Utah.

Table V.3.
Most Common Nonfederal Activities in a Typical Month in Utah
Working on child care issues 12.7%
Working on child support enforcement 12.4
Physical health treatment 12.2
Mental health treatment 10.3
Working on other support services 8.3
Other life skills activities 4.9
Pursuing disability income 4.8

The majority of recipients assigned to activities are assigned to multiple activities (see Table V.4). Some combine multiple activities within the same category  for instance, job search with work experience, which are both core federally countable activities, or domestic violence counseling with resolving child care issues, which are both nonfederal activities; others combine activities across categories  for instance, job search with mental health counseling. Employed recipients combine work with other activities in different ways in the two sites. In El Paso County, employed recipients, particularly part-timers, combine work primarily with job search; relatively few are assigned to nonfederal activities as well. In Utah, however, the majority of employed recipients combine work with nonfederal activities.

Table V.4.
Number Of Activities in a Typical Month
Number of Activities Percentage
El Paso County Utah
0 9.9 16.6
1 42.9 13.4
2 31.6 23.6
3 11.5 23.3
4 4.0 14.6
5+ 0.1 8.4

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