The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. WtW Objectives and Funding

02/01/2004

The WtW grants program was to serve the hardest-to-employ and help them obtain employment that could ultimately result in long-term economic independence. Federal rules governing the program specified that its objectives were:(4)

  • To facilitate the placement of hard-to-employ welfare recipients and certain noncustodial parents into transitional employment opportunities which will lead to lasting unsubsidized employment and self-sufficiency;"
  • To provide a variety of activities, grounded in TANF's "work first" philosophy, to prepare individuals for, and to place them in, lasting unsubsidized employment;
  • To provide a variety of post-employment and job retention services which will assist the hard-to-employ welfare recipients and certain noncustodial parents to secure lasting unsubsidized employment;
  • To provide targeted WtW funds to high poverty areas with large numbers of hard-to-employ welfare recipients.

Congress recognized that certain populations and certain high-poverty areas might require higher investments of resources over a longer period of time than the regular welfare caseload. Long-term services to achieve economic self-sufficiency were encouraged  beginning a job, either subsidized or unsubsidized, was assumed to be just the first step. WtW funds were also to target individuals in need of intensive services: long-term welfare recipients, high school dropouts, substance abusers, and those approaching their TANF time limits. In addition, WtW programs could serve noncustodial parents with severe employment problems.

To address the employment and service needs of such a diverse target population, WtW grants could fund a broad range of employment services. The program activities that WtW funds were intended to support, as specified in section 5001(C)(i) of the BBA, were:

  • Community service and work experience programs
  • On-the-job training
  • Job creation through wage subsidies
  • Job retention services
  • Job readiness, job placement, and post-employment services
  • Support services such as substance abuse treatment

In addition, the 1999 amendments expanded this list of allowable activities to include up to six months of vocational education or job training.

Congress authorized $3 billion  $1.5 billion in FY 1998 and $1.5 billion in FY 1999  for the WtW grants program, and included specific provisions about how the WtW funds were to be distributed. Most of the funds were distributed through competitive and formula-based grants.(5)

While DHHS administers TANF at the national level, DOL administers the WtW program, but the latter was implemented within the context of welfare reform. Achieving the primary objectives of the WtW grants programs  targeting welfare recipients with the most serious difficulties and providing them with services to help them succeed in the job market  required that local programs funded by the grants reflect an understanding of the welfare policies and programs in their communities and include arrangements for interacting with them.

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