TANF Pilot Success Confirms that Program Moving in the Right Direction
A pilot of the TANF redesign yielded encouraging results that bode well for the program’s future success. Conducted by the Department of Human Services in the spring of 2011, a sample of 164 TANF families went through the new TANF orientation and an in-depth assessment to identify employment barriers. They were then connected to education, training, and work activities especially chosen to suit their unique situations.
The five week pilot program yielded the following results:
- The number of families participating in TANF work activities – including job training, education, barrier remediation, or other activities agreed-upon during the assessment stage – more than tripled, from 18 percent before the trial to 56 percent under the trial.
- The number of families meeting 100 percent of required work participation hours as set by federal guidelines (20 or 30 hours per week for a single parent household) grew from just three percent to 35 percent.
- Four parents found employment and were able to end their TANF participation.
These outcomes are especially impressive because of the very short time period of the pilot program – just five weeks. The results suggest that low participation rates in TANF activities in past years stemmed from inadequate assessment of client needs and ineffectiveness of the work readiness services. The pilot program’s results show that TANF families will quickly become engaged when offered meaningful services.
But the success of the redesign is at-risk. There is a mismatch between DC’s recently adopted time limit policy — which will reduce benefits to as low as $260 a month for thousands of families this year — and the implementation of the new TANF employment program, because many families will have their benefits cut before they can even access the new TANF services. For each client, DHS needs to complete an in-person assessment, create an individual responsibility plan (IRP) specifying the tasks the parent must complete, and provide orientation. The client is then able to access work preparation and job placement services. As of February 23rd, only 12 percent of families facing cuts had been assessed, the first step in obtaining new services.
The “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Time Limit Amendment Act of 2012”, legislation co-introduced by Councilmembers Michael Brown and Jim Graham in February, would delay the benefit cut for one year to allow all parents time to take advantage of new employment services. It would also provide reasonable time limit exemptions for vulnerable parents to allow them the time to deal with serious issues that interfere with their ability to work such as domestic violence, illness, or caring for a family member with a disability. This bill is a positive step towards ensuring that the new TANF program is a success by incentivizing work while protecting our most vulnerable families.