Panel Paper: Welfare Work Requirements, Work to Keep Recipients in Cycles of Poverty

Saturday, March 30, 2019
Mary Graydon Center - Room 200 (American University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kameron Corinne Mims-Jones, Columbia University

This abstract presents recommendations to reform CalWORKS work requirements guidelines. Current CalWORKS guidelines place priority on either “job search” or “work for work sake.” Compelling research demonstrates present guidelines do not support long-term goals of financial independence in the wake of the federally required time-limit imposed upon recipients. Recommendations to reform current CalWORKS work requirements will support recipients in participating in education/workforce readiness activities; decreasing the risk of continued poverty, increasing accesses to stable employment and higher wage jobs; These reforms move certain CalWORKS recipients towards economic stability and social mobility.

In 2017, 81% of CalWORKS recipients were children. This means the single largest beneficiary of the CalWORKS program, are unemployable, however adult achievement is related to childhood poverty and the length of time kids live in poverty can have lasting effects on their long-term outcomes.

CalWORKS is funded and mandated by the federal TANF block grant, between 2016-2017, California used 65% of it TANF funding for CalWORKS. TANF funding requires that states create ways for their participants to move from government programs, and into the workforce. “Work first” guidelines show little in way of success at ending poverty, unemployment or government dependence. Comprehensive studies looking to assess work requirements for state TANF funded cash assistance programs found:

· Stable employment among recipient’s subject to work requirements proved the exception, not the norm.

· Most recipients with significant barriers to employment never found work even after participating in work programs that were otherwise deemed effective.

· The large majority of individuals subject to work requirements remained poor, and some became poorer.”

CalWORKS work requirements do not address the significant barriers to long-term employment that many participants experience:

· Fewer than one in ten CalWORKs adults have education beyond high school, while about six in ten California adults overall do .

·Policy Recommendation

· Over the long term, the most successful TANF job readiness programs supported efforts to boost education and skills, rather than simply requiring people to search for work or find a job.

· California has a growing demand for more educated and skilled workforce, to keep up with the demand California must produce 1.7 million more degrees over the next 10 years. We could adopt programs that have shown powerful results to support the demand for a skilled workforce in California and at the same time create economic stability for current CalWORKS participants

· In San Antonio, Texas, QUEST (Quality Employment Training Through Skills Training) a partly city-funded program provides financial aid to cover education-related expenses for low-income adults enrolled in community college to earn an associate’s degree or an accredited occupational certificate.

· QUEST also provides intensive services to help ensure participants stay in school and finish the training. This includes direct services — including remedial instruction, basic education training, weekly work readiness training on topics such as stress management and goal setting, and job placement assistance