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Strategies for Increasing TANF Work Participation Rates


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:

More Information

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.