Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs: Adjusting to Changing Circumstances. I. Introduction

11/01/2003

Congress established the Welfare-to-Work (WtW) grants program as part of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997. Its purpose was to provide additional resources to supplement the welfare reform funds included in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants to states, which were authorized under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. The three billion dollar initiative was intended to support programs, especially in high-poverty communities, to assist the least employable, most disadvantaged welfare recipients make the transition from welfare to work. These funds were also available to help low-income noncustodial parents increase their earnings and better support their children.

The federal WtW funds were distributed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in 1998 and 1999. Three-quarters of the funds were distributed by formula to states, which were required to pass on 85 percent of their formula funds to local workforce investment boards (WIBs). The other quarter of the federal funds were distributed competitively based on grant applications from state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and public and private entities. Initially, grantees were expected to spend the funds within three years of their receipt, but amendments in 1999 extended the period to five years, meaning grants end in 2003 and 2004. (Appendix A provides general background information about the WtW grants program funding and eligibility criteria.)

Congress mandated that the WtW grants program be evaluated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Under contract from DHHS, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., along with its subcontractors the Urban Institute and Support Services International, is conducting the national evaluation to document implementation of WtW programs and employment and welfare outcomes for program participants. This is one of several reports based on the national evaluation, which has four components:

  • A Descriptive Assessment of All WtW Grantees, based on two surveys of all WtW grantees nationwide to document the planning phase and early program operations.(1)
  • Process and Implementation Analysis, based on exploratory visits to 22 local WtW grant-funded programs, and more detailed analysis of programs in eleven study sites.(2)
  • Program Cost Analysis in nine of the eleven study sites, documenting the total program costs and participant costs by service category and grantees.(3)
  • Outcomes Analysis in nine of the eleven study sites, describing the characteristics and subsequent employment experiences of enrollees in WtW-funded programs.(4)

Since our last site visits in 2001, several developments and trends might have changed the context within which the WtW programs are implemented, each of which could have precipitated changes or adaptations at the program level. The current report updates information included in the June 2002 process and implementation analysis report.(5) The 2002 report described the components, services, structure, management, and operations of the programs funded with WtW grants in study sites. That report was based on researcher site visits to each of the study sites in 2001 and described the programs as they existed at that time.

Thus, the purpose of this report is to document how grantees have adapted as they approach or reach the ends of their WtW grant periods and how other conditions in 2002 and 2003 — particularly the slow economy and any state policies related to TANF or the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) — have affected their programs. The information is based upon follow-up discussions held in mid-2003 with key administrators in each of the eleven study sites. The next chapter describes the operations of the WtW grant-funded programs in the study sites in 2003. Chapter III summarizes how WtW grantees and programs adapted to economic conditions and TANF or WIA policy changes in 2002 and 2003, and Chapter IV discusses the legacy and lessons of WtW from the perspective of grantee agency administrators in the study sites.

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