In September 2001, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) awarded about $1.4 million in grants to states to study the characteristics of individuals receiving cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The funding allows states to enter cooperative agreements with ASPE to examine the characteristics of current TANF recipients and their households in terms of demographics; personal, family, and community barriers to employment; and employment and economic outcomes. To foster comparability across states, ASPE provided a common telephone survey instrument to state grantees for use in collecting data on their TANF caseload. The instrument has been supplemented by states according to their particular needs. This project will enhance understanding of the current TANF caseload in a range of states, and in so doing, will inform ASPE, individual states, and the research and policy community.
The cooperative agreements are the result of a competitive announcement of the availability of funds and request for applications to study the current TANF caseload that appeared in Volume 66, Number 87 of the Federal Register on May 4, 2001. The following grantees were selected for funding:
- California Department of Social Services
- Colorado Department of Human Services
- The District of Columbia (DC) Department of Human Services
- Maryland Department of Human Resources
- Missouri Department of Social Services
- South Carolina Department of Social Services
California Department of Social Services:
Characteristics of the Hard-to-Serve Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Population and their Common Potential Barriers to Employment
This project will collect data on current TANF recipients to determine the prevalence and severity of barriers to employment. Special attention will be given to transportation, job skills, availability of child care, attachment to workforce, post-traumatic stress disorder, immigrant status, English proficiency, and barriers unique to Latinos. Using both survey and administrative data, the project will enhance understanding of a welfare population comprising one-quarter of all TANF cases nationwide and characterized by extensive cultural diversity and a large number of immigrants.
Colorado Department of Human Services:
Understanding the Barriers to Employment of the Colorado WORKS Caseload
This project will use both survey and administrative data to study the barriers encountered and the services utilized by single-parent TANF recipients in their attempts to sustain employment. Particular attention will be given to long-term recipients, who risk losing benefits, and to cyclers, who come on and off the TANF rolls. Barriers to be examined include job experience, education levels, child care responsibilities, mental health, social isolation, substance abuse, domestic violence, and housing instability. Focus on service utilization may include attention to service availability and to recipients perceptions of the helpfulness of available services and of caseworkers. The grantee intends to continue to study these factors longitudinally, in order to examine employment, earnings, and returns to the caseload.
D.C. Department of Human Services:
A Study of D.C.s TANF Caseload
This project will focus on barriers to employment among long-term and sanctioned (child-only) TANF recipients in one-parent households. It will enhance understanding of the barriers to employment encountered by TANF recipients residing in urban areas with dense concentrations of poverty and high costs of living. In addition to barriers to employment, the project hopes to examine mental health, substance abuse, social isolation, difficulties paying for housing and utilities, availability of and utilization of child care subsidies. Relying on survey and administrative data, the analysis will explore the prevalence of various barriers to employment, particular combinations of barriers, variations across subgroups, and relation to employment and economic outcomes.
Maryland Department of Human Resources:
Life on Welfare:
Characteristics, Circumstances, Perceptions, and Prospects of the Active Caseload
This project will provide a detailed portrait of the current TANF caseload in Maryland, with particular attention to long-term recipients in Baltimore and suburban D.C., the role of non-custodial parents, parental responsibility, receipt of child support, mental health, substance abuse, and recipients perceptions of their own barriers. The project will make extensive use of the states linked administrative data for an array of public assistance programs. Survey samples will be stratified by six regions within the state, to capture significant variations in economic conditions and in the TANF program across the state. Findings will contribute to policy development, and to program planning, management, and evaluation.
Missouri Department of Social Services:
Assessment of Families Receiving Cash Assistance
This project will focus on the personal, family, and community barriers to employment among TANF recipients to help design new policies and services, to improve caseload forecasts, and to serve the current caseload better. Attention will be given to single-parent and to child-only cases, cyclers, new entrants, and long-term recipients. Areas to be examined include the employment and economic outcomes of the caseload, relationship difficulties, physical and mental health, substance abuse, the constellations of characteristics posing the greatest barriers to employment, the forms of support utilized by recipients, and recipients reasons for not utilizing available support. Survey and administrative data will be linked to community level data on unemployment rates, crime rates, and job availability.
South Carolina Department of Social Services:
TANF Receipt Characteristics Study
This project will use survey and administrative data to describe the needs and the barriers to employment of TANF recipients. Subgroups for analysis will be short, intermediate, and long-term recipients, caseload cyclers, temporarily disabled clients, and child-only cases with a caretaker on disability income. Areas of focus will include level of education, father involvement, physical and mental health, disabilities, criminal records, the availability, utilization, and adequacy of services, employment and earnings over time, and the concurrence of barriers and their effects on employment. Findings will inform program administrators and policymakers with regard to TANF time limits, sanctions, and exemption policies.