Welfare to Work:

State Programs Have Tested Some of the Proposed Reforms

PEMD-95-26: Published: Jul 14, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the evaluations of numerous state welfare-to-work experiments completed since 1988, focusing on: (1) how these experiments resemble current welfare reforms; and (2) the approaches that have been effective in increasing employment and earnings or reducing benefits among welfare clients.

GAO found that: (1) state welfare-to-work experiments and current federal welfare reform proposals both include work programs for welfare recipients, stricter requirements for participation in work programs and child support enforcement, and increasing work incentives; (2) states are testing proposals, such as limiting the length of time a family can receive benefits, but their evaluations are not yet complete; (3) some states have evaluated features of welfare-to-work programs, such as providing a broad mix of employment services, that go beyond some of the current proposals; (4) although the states' experiences provide information regarding some current reform features, it is not possible to project the likely effects of the entire package of reform proposals; (5) the programs that consistently showed the best employment and welfare-related outcomes for participants combined many employment-related activities and support services with some form of participation mandate and had adequate funding to serve their clients; (6) it has been difficult to move welfare recipients to self-supporting employment; (7) only one fourth of participants were self-sufficient in being both employed and off welfare after 3 years in welfare-to-work programs; and (8) the approach of increasing both work incentives and access to employment has had mixed results among states that have attempted such actions.

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