Welfare Reform:

Moving Hard-to-Employ Recipients Into the Workforce

GAO-01-368: Published: Mar 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 2001.

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Although some welfare recipients who might seem hard to employ are able to successfully enter the workforce, others have needed considerable time and support to become work-ready. As a result, some states have begun to implement or are considering strategies to help hard-to-employ recipients join the workforce. To be successful in moving hard-to-employ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients into the workforce within their 60-month time limit for federal benefits, states must develop programs and provide work and work-preparation activities tailored to the needs of their hard-to-employ recipients and they must ensure that recipients with characteristics that impede employment have access to programs and activities that meet their needs. Some states believe that they would be better able to accomplish this if they (1) had caseload data on the number and characteristics of hard-to-employ TANF recipients, particularly those who will reach their 60-month limit before they are able to work and (2) used a range of work and work-preparation activities that meet the needs of hard-to-employ recipients, including activities that extend beyond those that meet federal work participation requirements.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the states provide hard-to-employ TANF recipients with the services and support they need in order to become employed, and are able to manage TANF caseloads with substantial numbers of hard-to-employ recipients, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families should promote research and provide guidance that would encourage and enable states to estimate the number and characteristics of hard-to-employ TANF recipients, and identify recipients who will reach their 60-month limit on benefits before they are able to work.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS implemented GAO's recommendation (1) by issuing a task-order contract to Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) to conduct a study on recipients who are approaching or have already reached TANF time limits and (2) by providing grants to states and localities to conduct studies on the TANF caseload and on welfare-related outcomes. MDRC issued its report on welfare time limits in July 2002. Grants to states and localities to study the TANF caseload include grants to California (CA), Colorado, Washington D.C., Maryland, Missouri, South Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Alameda County, CA and San Mateo, CA.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the states provide hard-to-employ TANF recipients with the services and support they need in order to become employed, and are able to manage TANF caseloads with substantial numbers of hard-to-employ recipients, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families should expand the scope of guidance to states to help them use the flexibility Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act affords to provide appropriate work-preparation activities to hard-to-employ TANF recipients within the current TANF rules governing work participation rates and federally countable work activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS implemented GAO's recommendation by awarding a contract to the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) to conduct the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project. This project will examine implementation issues, program designs, net impacts, and the costs and benefits of selected programs, and will assess how the programs affect family functioning and child well-being. Interim reports will provide information as it becomes available. For example, MDRC has issued a "how-to-guide" on how to help hard-to-employ individuals get jobs and succeed in the workplace.

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