A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Franklin County, Ohio A Focus on Work Experience


Franklin County takes a "work-first" approach to moving low-income families off the welfare rolls. It exempts from work participation requirements only recipients with a child under the age of one; all other recipients must participate in work and work-related activities for at least 30 hours per week. Unfortunately, Franklin County's quest for broad engagement of the TANF caseload has become an uphill battle as a result of a recent budget crisis. This formerly resource-rich community, which includes the city of Columbus, once purchased comprehensive employment and supportive services from more than 20 agencies. Now, it primarily offers in-house job search assistance, work experience placements, and substantially limited education and training opportunities.

Historically, Franklin County has relied heavily on work experience, and the majority of TANF recipients in the county are still assigned to a work experience placement as their primary work activity. Recipients who are unemployed after six weeks in a job readiness program are referred to an in-house resource unit that develops, coordinates, and monitors work experience placements for over 1,600 TANF and non-TANF job seekers at any point in time. Work placements are primarily clerical, retail, janitorial, and maintenance positions in government and nonprofit agencies (e.g., Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, American Red Cross). While the recent budget crisis has not undermined this historical emphasis on work experience, it has seriously eroded the ability of county staff to supplement this experience with supportive services or programs.

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