Unemployment Insurance as a Potential Safety Net for TANF Leavers: Evidence from Five States. D. The Role of Nonmonetary Factors


In addition to monetary eligibility, nonmonetary factors can also make workers ineligible. People can become disqualified for nonmonetary reasons in one of two main ways. In most states, claimants who quit jobs voluntarily usually are ineligible for benefits. In some states, people who quit for a good cause (usually a work-related reason, such as a sudden change in the hours of work or schedule) may be eligible. The second reason for disqualification of workers with monetary eligibility is the workers’ availability to accept suitable employment. In many states, people who are available to work part time only are ineligible for benefits.

Although we do not have data from the five WtW sites on the fraction of clients who may have nonmonetary eligibility, data from the New Jersey study indicate that a considerable fraction of those with monetary eligibility may at some point be disqualified for nonmonetary reasons.(4) The findings from the New Jersey study indicate that nearly half of employed former TANF recipients quit their jobs; this rate is twice that of national quit rates.(5) About half of those in the New Jersey study who quit their jobs did so for personal reasons, such as a health problem, having to care for a child at home, inconvenient job location, or a transportation issue. Advocates of broadening the UI rules to enable low-wage workers to access benefits more easily have recommended wider use of good cause related to personal reasons, including child care and transportation problems.

The New Jersey study also found that about one in four TANF recipients had had part-time jobs as their current or most recent jobs. If we assume that these individuals would be available to work for only the same number of hours in case of job loss, then they could be disqualified for nonmonetary reasons. Of course, these numbers should be viewed only as a very rough proxy for the fraction who might become disqualified due to part-time employment. For instance, claimants may be available to work full time, or they may not always inform UI workers about the hours that they would like to work. Nonetheless, data on the high rates of quits among former TANF recipients and the relatively high number of part-time workers suggest that a considerably large fraction of those who have potential monetary eligibility might be disqualified for nonmonetary reasons.

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