In reauthorizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) maintained the same work participation rates that were established when TANF was created by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 50 percent for all families and 90 percent for two-parent families. However, other changes included in the DRA effectively increased the work participation rates that states much achieve in their TANF programs. Key changes include updating the base year for calculating the caseload reduction credit from 1995 to 2005 and extending work participation requirements to families with an adult receiving assistance in a separate state program funded with state maintenance-of-effort (MOE) dollars. The DRA also directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to define each of the 12 countable activities, the type of documentation needed to verify reported hours of work, and determine who is a work eligible individual.
To assist state and local officials in thinking about strategies that might aid them in meeting federal work participation requirements in their TANF programs, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and the Administration for Children and Families Office of Policy, Research and Evaluation undertook a project to identify and describe strategies that states and localities are adopting to increase the participation of TANF clients in work activities. This project developed a series of practice briefs drawing on information gathered from case studies of selected states and/or local offices that might be of interest to other program administrators. None of the programs described in these practice briefs has been rigorously evaluated, so their effectiveness is unknown. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does not specifically endorse any of the approaches described in this practice brief series.
The following practice briefs were produced under this project:
- Providing Paid Employment Opportunities to TANF Participants Engaged in Vocational Education Programs: Examples from Denver, Colorado; Kentucky; and California, December 2008. This brief profiles three programs, two statewide and one local, that provide work opportunities to TANF recipients who are participating in vocational education activities. Selected programs combine vocational education and paid work.
- Using Data to Monitor and Improve the Work Participation of TANF Recipients: Examples from New York City and Utah, December 2008. This brief profiles two strategies, one statewide and one local, for analyzing, reporting, and using data to hold case managers and administrators accountable for increasing the work participation of TANF recipients and meeting work participation rate goals. Selected strategies both keep staff informed about progress toward participation rate goals and allow program managers to address non-participation quickly.
- Providing Unpaid Work Experience Opportunities for TANF Recipients: Examples from Erie County, New York; Montana; and Hamilton County, Ohio, December 2008. This brief profiles three work experience programs that engage nearly all work-ready TANF recipients in unpaid work activities, either alone or in combination with education and training.
- Achieving Higher Work Participation Rates: Case Studies from Maryland and Utah, December 2008. This brief describes the multi-pronged approaches taken by Maryland and Utah that more than doubled their work participation rates within one year. Through a combination of strategies, some adopted by both states and some unique to each state, both states achieved increases in the number of TANF recipients engaged in federally countable program activities for the requisite number of hours per week.
- Summary Report, December 2008 This brief describes a range of strategies states have implemented to achieve higher work participation rates. It presents a non-representative sampling of the kinds of approaches that states have implemented, grouped into four broad categories creation of new work opportunities for TANF recipients, administrative strategies, policy changes, and creation of new programs. It summarizes material presented in the four other briefs and draws on additional information from other sources, but is not based on systemic data collection.
This project was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR), under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation.