Welfare Reform:

States' Experiences in Providing Employment Assistance to TANF Clients

HEHS-99-22: Published: Feb 26, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how states that were early implementers of welfare reform and of one-stop career centers were providing employment and training assistance under welfare reform, focusing on the: (1) structural approaches states are using to provide employment and training services to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients; (2) employment and training assistance the states are providing; and (3) funding sources states are using to pay for this assistance.

GAO noted that: (1) it is too early to tell what the most efficient and effective model is--all five states GAO visited were continuing to modify the structure of their workforce development and welfare systems to adapt to the new environment created by welfare reform; (2) some states are making significant changes, however, to their structural approaches to serving the TANF clients; (3) nationwide, states largely provide these services through two different structures; (4) in 14 states, TANF clients receive employment and training services primarily through centers dedicated to serving only welfare clients; 17 states primarily use their local workforce development structures to deliver these services; and the remaining states use a combination of approaches; (5) the fives states GAO visited all provide employment and training services centered on getting TANF clients into the workforce as quickly as possible; (6) training focuses more on job readiness than on acquiring new vocational skills, in some cases using unpaid work experience or community service work to teach job-readiness skills; (7) despite the similarity in types of services available in the five states, the approach used to deliver these services varies; (8) two states tailor the initial services to meet individual client needs, and two states provide the same initial services to all clients without regard to clients' needs; (9) services in the fifth state, Ohio, differ in approach from county to county; (10) the TANF block grant, rather than workforce development programs, is the principal source of funding for employment and training assistance to TANF clients; (11) even where the workforce development system is providing services to the state's TANF clients, it is doing so with TANF funds; (12) according to state officials, this funding pattern results from the fact that TANF funds are plentiful and flexible, whereas workforce development funds are limited; and (13) welfare's hard-to-employ clients may be assisted by a new 2-year, $3 billion welfare-to-work grant program administered through workforce development systems, but at the time of GAO's fieldwork, the four states that applied for these grants were just beginning to implement their programs.

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