Welfare-to-Work Programs - History Of Workfare

job training percent jobs

In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced the nation's first federal welfare program. At that time, 88 percent of welfare families received assistance because the father of the family had died. Since the nation had a surplus of workers and a shortage of work, keeping widows at home allowed mothers to care for their children and also kept these women from competing with men in the job market. Public work programs for men, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), were also created to combat unemployment.

Community Work and Training Program

The 1962 Public Welfare Amendments (PL 87-543) authorized the first federal workfare program—the Community Work and Training Program (CWTP). This program allowed the states to choose whether or not they wanted to enroll adult AFDC recipients in workfare programs. The CWTP provided standards for health and safety, minimum wages paid as welfare benefits, training, work expenses, and child care. Those enrolled had to work in meaningful public-service jobs that did not displace other workers. Between October 1962 and June 1968 CWTP workers received $195 million. When the program ended in June 1968, it had involved thirteen states and as many as 27,000 participants.

Economic Opportunity Act

The next major initiative, Title V of the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964 (PL 88-452), allowed states to develop "work experience demonstration projects" using EOA funds instead of welfare funds intended for AFDC mothers, unemployed fathers, and other needy adults. If participants in the work-experience program were also AFDC recipients enrolled in the CWTP, Title V funds supplemented welfare benefits. The demonstration projects spent $300 million, with participation peaking at 72,000 persons in 1967. Title V expired in June 1969.

The available information on the EOA and the CWTP is not adequate to evaluate the programs' actual impact on the lives and futures of the participants. The sparse data available showed that 36 to 46 percent of the participants found employment after job training or after leaving a work-experience project. However, the researchers do not know what would have happened without the programs' intervention or how long these individuals remained employed.

Work Incentive Program

The Work Incentive (WIN) program was enacted through the 1967 Social Security Amendments (PL 90-248) to make AFDC recipients less dependent on welfare. The 1967 amendments were in response to a 24 percent increase in the number of female-headed families eligible for AFDC and were intended to provide training for these women.

The WIN program required registration of "appropriate AFDC recipients," with each state defining who was "appropriate." The program included regular counseling as well as referral and assistance in obtaining basic education and job skills. The recipients in classroom and on-the-job training might receive a small incentive payment. The program was supposed to develop an "employability" plan for each recipient. But by 1971 it became apparent that most participants in the program were not finding jobs.

The Social Security Act was amended in 1971, 1980, 1982, and 1984 to improve the WIN program. The WIN program was phased out by the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) training program. All states enrolled in WIN had to introduce the JOBS program by October 1990.

Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) of 1973 (PL 93-203) consolidated several federal employment and training programs, not all of which focused solely on low-income job seekers. Targeted at economically disadvantaged people, including those on welfare, the CETA training programs lasted about ten years. In 1979 about 90 percent of the 1.2 million participants in the major CETA programs were economically disadvantaged—71 percent were in poor families, and 18 percent were AFDC recipients.

Food Stamp Workfare

The Food Stamp Act of 1977 (PL 95-400) authorized seven urban and seven rural workfare demonstration projects that operated between 1979 and 1980. The 1981 amendments to the Food Stamp Act (PL 97-98) expanded the program and granted authority to all states and localities to establish workfare programs for food-stamp recipients. The work programs were similar to the previously discussed workfare programs. Noncompliance (not participating in the work program) resulted in the loss of eligibility for food stamps.

After the first year, a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) study could not determine the overall costs and benefits. A later GAO study found that during the 1981 expansion phase, those in the workfare demonstration projects reduced their receipt of food stamps at a greater rate than those not on workfare.

Job Training Partnership Act

In 1982 the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) (PL 97-300) replaced CETA. Title II-A of this act provided block grants to the states for training and related services for economically disadvantaged people, especially those receiving cash assistance and food stamps. State and local governments administered these programs within federal guidelines. The aid was intended to increase the participants' future employment possibilities and earnings and to reduce their dependence on welfare. Services provided by this program included job training, help in finding work, counseling, and other assistance designed to prepare the participant for a job.

In a typical year during the 1970s, more than one million new people were enrolled in the job-training program. By 1984 the number had dropped to 716,200 as budgets were cut in half. Budgets (in 1990 dollars) continued to drop after 1986. As a result, so did the number of new enrollees, which declined from one million in 1986 to 635,300 in 1994.

The number of terminees (people who had completed the program) also dropped sharply between 1990 and 1997, from 307,935 in 1990 to 175,647 in 1994 and 147,717 in 1997. Only 45 percent of those who enrolled in the program in 1997 completed it. In 1997, 68 percent of those participating in these programs were female and 32 percent were male. Almost half (45 percent) were non-Hispanic whites, about one-third (34 percent) were non-Hispanic African-Americans, 17 percent were Hispanics, and 5 percent were from other races.

In 1997 the majority (57 percent) of terminees were between thirty and fifty-four years of age, while 41 percent were between twenty-two and twenty-nine years of age. Only 2 percent were fifty-five years and older. In the same year, 57 percent of those who completed the program were high school graduates, and 21 percent had an education beyond high school.

Critics of the JTPA programs claimed that the most employable individuals from the eligible population were selected to participate in the program. They believed that this had been fostered by the heavy use of performance-based contracts, in which the amount paid to a private trainer of JTPA participants was based on the number of participants placed in jobs. Therefore, contractors tended to screen out eligible applicants who might be difficult to place. The strongest evidence of this selection process was in the educational attainment of those in the program, over half of whom were high school graduates. However, it is also possible that those people with higher educational levels were more likely to apply for the program.

The JTPA program was repealed by Congress in 1998 and replaced in 2000 by the Workforce Investment Act, discussed later in this chapter.

SUMMER EMPLOYMENT. Title II-B of JTPA authorized a summer employment and training program for economically disadvantaged youngsters ages sixteen to twenty-one. Under this program, 100 percent of the participants had to be economically disadvantaged. Services included a full range of remedial education, classroom and on-the-job training, and some work experience for which the young people were paid a minimum wage.

As with the training program discussed earlier, outlays and participation dropped after 1985. Funding decreased from $776 billion in 1985 to $663 billion in 1991 to $643 billion in 1998 (in constant 1990 dollars). Participation dropped from 767,600 in 1985 to 555,200 in 1991, to 495,100 in 1998. (See Table 9.1.)

The summer employment and training program was repealed by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Summer employment programs for young persons are continuing as part of other programs for low-income youth.

Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training Program

JOBS was another program intended to help welfare families obtain education, training, and employment so that they could become self-sufficient. JOBS, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was also designed to provide these individuals with supportive services, such as child care. Each state was responsible for determining the structure of its JOBS program. This responsibility helped direct the training toward unique needs and job opportunities within each state. The Family Support Act of 1988 (PL 100-485) required states to replace any existing WIN programs with JOBS programs.

The target groups for the JOBS program were persons who had received AFDC for at least thirty-six months

Summer youth employment and training program, federal appropriations, outlays, and participants, fiscal years 1984–981
[In millions of dollars]

Appropriations2 Current dollars Constant 1990 dollars Participants3
1984 $824 $584 $731 672,000
1985 724 776 938 767,600
1986 636 746 879 785,000
1987 750 723 828 634,400
1988 718 707 778 722,900
1989 709 697 732 607,900
1990 700 699 699 585,100
1991 683 698 663 555,200
1992 3995 958 912 782,100
1993 41,025 915 827 647,400
1994 5888 834 739 574,400
1995 6185 883 763 495,300
1996 7625 1,030 870 410,700
1997 8871 913 754 492,900
1998 9871 787 643 495,100
1Appropriations and outlays are for fiscal years; participants are for calendar years.
2Because JTPA is an advance-funded program, appropriations for the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program in a particular fiscal year are generally spent the following summer. For example, fiscal year 1991 appropriations were spent during the summer of calendar year 1992. The pattern has varied somewhat in recent years. These variations are noted.
3Fiscal year 1992 funding includes a $500 million supplemental appropriation for summer 1992 and $495 million for summer 1993.
4Fiscal year 1993 funding includes $354 million for summer 1993 and $671 million for summer 1994.
5Fiscal year 1994 funding includes $206 million for summer 1994 and $682 million for summer 1995.
6Public Law 104–19 rescinded $682 million in fiscal year 1995 funds which were to be available for the summer of 1996. The remaining $185 million was for the summer of 1995.
7Fiscal year 1996 funds are for the summer of 1996.
8Fiscal year 1997 funds are for the summer of 1997.
9Fiscal year 1998 funds are for the summer of 1998.
SOURCE: "Summer Youth Employment Program: Federal Appropriations, Outlays, and Participants, Fiscal Years 1984–1998," in The Green Book, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, Washington, DC, 2000

over the previous sixty months, parents under twenty-four years of age who did not have a high school diploma or a GED and who were not in school when they applied for AFDC, parents under twenty-four years of age with little or no work experience in the previous year, and members of families in which the youngest child was sixteen years or older. In a majority of cases, the parent was female. Unlike previous laws, the act required participation in JOBS by parents of children as young as three years old and permitted states to include participation of mothers with children as young as one year old. As described by the HHS, the JOBS program:

  • Emphasized education, particularly literacy and remedial education. Basic education, in this context, was defined as literacy and remedial education, English as a second language, and a high school diploma or the equivalent.
  • Provided training and work experience for jobs that existed. Emphasis was on short-term, goal-oriented training. JOBS was designed to use and coordinate with other job-training programs that were already in existence. It encouraged community participation in programs such as community-based business and volunteer organizations. Work-training programs were targeted at areas that needed specific types of skills to match job opportunities.
  • Gave states flexibility in program design. The federal government created the broad standards, but the states designed the programs to best suit their needs.
  • Allowed women to choose relatives, independent contractors, or day care centers, within state fiscal constraints, as child-care providers. States used vouchers, direct payments, or other types of financing to compensate child-care workers.

Every state JOBS program was required to include plans to provide education to those without a high school education, offer job-skills training, and teach the person how to get and hold a job. With a few exceptions, the program had to provide some form of schooling designed to get a high school or equivalent diploma if the person was a parent under twenty years old with no high school education. Similarly, the state had to provide educational programs unless the person had a specific employment goal that did not require a high school diploma if the person was over twenty years of age and without a high school or equivalent diploma.

JOBS required the state to supply child care to mothers who needed it. The state also had to provide transportation and other services if the parent needed them. If the family lost AFDC eligibility because the parent had found a job, the family could get a year of transitional child care and Medicaid. This transition period was intended to help the family adjust to its new situation and be able to somehow replace the child care and health services offered under the JOBS program. Basically, the JOBS program created a new government compact with welfare recipients. It promised to give them more training, supply transportation, furnish day care for their children, and provide Medicaid to protect their health, while the welfare recipient was required to get either an education or a job.

Funding for the JOBS program significantly increased potential federal financing. The federal matching rate was 90 percent, up to a state's WIN allocation for 1987. Funds for JOBS programs beyond that amount were matched at the Medicaid rate or 60 percent, whichever was greater. The total federal financing matched was set at a cap of $800 million in 1990 to rise to a cap of $1.3 billion in 1995. There were no limits on child-care funding, which was matched at the Medicaid rate, which ranges from 50 to 80 percent, depending on the state. Generally, federal authorizations permitted about 10 percent of welfare recipients to participate in JOBS programs at any one time. In a typical month in 1994, 579,213 people were participating in JOBS programs.

The JOBS program was replaced by TANF under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Job Corps

The Job Corps program was first authorized in 1964 by the Economic Opportunity Act. After 1982, it was authorized by Title IV-B of JTPA. The program serves economically disadvantaged youth ages sixteen to twenty-four who show both the need for and the ability to benefit from an intensive and wide range of social services provided in a residential setting. In 2001 there were 118 Job Corps centers in the United States offering basic education, vocational skills training, work experience, counseling, health care, and other job-related services. About 88 percent of the trainees live at the centers while they are enrolled in the program.

In the 1997–98 program year, about 60 percent of the enrollees were male; 50 percent of new students were African-American; 28 percent, white; and 16 percent, Hispanic. Seventy-eight percent were high school dropouts, and 63 percent had never worked full time. Thirty-three percent of Job Corps enrollees in 1997 came from families on public assistance.

In 2000 the average enrollee stayed in the program for 7.1 months. Those who graduated from the program were enrolled longer, an average of 10.6 months. Almost all (91 percent) program graduates (those either receiving their high school diploma/GED or completing a vocational trade course) got a job after leaving, continued their education, or entered the military. The hourly wage received by graduates was $7.97 per hour, up 6.4 percent from 1999.

Funding for the Job Corps was not cut as dramatically as that for other work programs had been, and participation remained relatively stable. Following a decline between 1982 and 1986, outlays increased gradually each year to $977 million (in constant 1990 dollars) in 1998. The average number of new enrollees per year was 68,476 between 1999 and 2003. The number of new enrollees in 2003 was estimated to be 68,454 with an estimated $1.6 billion outlay. (See Table 9.2.)

In a four-year longitudinal study, Does Job Corps Work? Summary of the National Job Corps Study (Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, 2001), John Burghardt and his colleagues found that compared to a control group of youth who did not participate in the Job Corps, the Job Corps participants: showed positive gains in education and training; were employed in higher-paying jobs; and were less dependent upon public assistance. (See Figure 9.1.)

Job Corps federal appropriations, outlays, and new enrollees, fiscal years 1999–2003
(Appropriations and outlays in millions of dollars)

Year Appropriations Outlays New enrollees
1999 1,308 1,154 70,565
2000 1,358 1,253 71,487
2001 1,399 1,291 67,833
2002 1,454 1,467 64,043
2003 est. 1,513 1,550 68,454
SOURCE: "Table 15–WIA 4. Job Corps Federal Appropriations, Outlays, and New Enrollees, Fiscal Years 1999–2003," in The Green Book, U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, 2003 [Online] http://waysandmeans.house.gov/media/pdf/greenbook2003/WIA.pdf [accessed February 4, 2004]

The Job Corps has been administered under the Workforce Investment Act since July 2000, following the repeal of the JTPA.

Workforce Investment Act

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA, Public Law 105-220) was passed by Congress in 1998 and replaced the JTPA. In 2003 the combined estimated outlays for job training programs for adults and youth equaled $2.1 billion. (See Table 9.3.) The WIA differs from the JTPA in several ways:

  • Under the WIA, "one-stop" centers have been created to improve service delivery to adults. These centers provide training, assistance with job searches, and comprehensive assessment.
  • The minimum income eligibility standards of the JTPA were eliminated under the WIA. All unemployed adults over age twenty-two who have had difficulty locating a job through traditional channels are eligible for the program.
  • Participants in the WIA may choose their training courses and providers.

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about 11 years ago

JTPA was a far better system of service to the unemployed than is the WIA. As an older worker "unemployed" I find there is NO connection of employer to employee tied in with training. I know I was a contract admin for UAW/GM in the 80's when this program actually worked. Now I and others are cut off from any real help from the current system.

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