A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Wisconsin A Focus on Tiered Case Planning


Wisconsin's TANF program  called Wisconsin Works, or W-2  emphasizes rapid attachment to the labor market. The state's philosophy is that everyone who can work should work, and no families are exempt from work requirements. However, the state acknowledges that some recipients have complex service needs that require more individualized attention. W-2 therefore incorporates a tiered approach to work and work-related placements. Case managers assign TANF applicants to one of the four following tiers based on their level of job readiness:

  • W-2 Transitions (W-2T). Individuals assigned to this tier face serious and persistent personal and family challenges such as domestic violence issues, mental health conditions, and substance abuse. They receive services that address these challenges or assistance applying for SSI. Those assigned to W-2T receive a TANF grant and are subject to participation requirements.
  • Community Service Jobs (CSJ). This tier is intended for work-ready individuals who face barriers that prevent them from being hired in the paid labor market, such as little or no work experience or a criminal history. These clients are placed in a work position to gain experience and are paid with TANF funds for the hours they work.
  • Trial Jobs. Individuals in this tier are hired by private-sector employers on a probationary basis. The state Department of Human Services arranges placements with employers and pays them $300 per month for up to six months to supplement the cost of each recipient's wages, which are commensurate with an entry-level salary. Employers agree to hire recipients permanently, provided that their performance during probation was satisfactory.
  • Case Management. Individuals in this tier receive intensive job search assistance but are not eligible for a TANF grant. They are linked to a consortium of agencies that provide job readiness support, job search assistance, and placement. Those who have not found a job within 30 days are re-evaluated for a different tier.

In Wisconsin, state performance standards drive service delivery. The state's "full and appropriate engagement" standard, one of 10 performance standards developed in 2000 that county welfare agencies must meet, requires that 80 percent of the total TANF caseload in a county participate in at least 30 hours of work or work-related activities per week, including federally countable and other state-approved nonfederal activities. This is substantially higher than the rate required by PRWORA in 2000 and today as well.

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