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  • Individual Author: Pavetti, LaDonna; Derr, Michelle K.; Hesketh, Heather
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2003

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60 year-old AFDC program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once emphasized the accurate delivery of cash benefits is now focused on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. As a part of this shift, the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled has dramatically increased. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements--have become central features of most states' TANF programs. The primary goal of sanctions is to convince clients that there are immediate consequences associated with the decisions they make. Sanctions have long been used to enforce program requirements and, with the emergence of "full-family" sanctions that remove all of a family's cash grant, have taken on a much greater significance.

    ...

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60 year-old AFDC program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once emphasized the accurate delivery of cash benefits is now focused on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. As a part of this shift, the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled has dramatically increased. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements--have become central features of most states' TANF programs. The primary goal of sanctions is to convince clients that there are immediate consequences associated with the decisions they make. Sanctions have long been used to enforce program requirements and, with the emergence of "full-family" sanctions that remove all of a family's cash grant, have taken on a much greater significance.

    Although there is a general consensus that sanctions have been one of the most important policy changes implemented through state welfare reform efforts, they are among the least studied. In this paper, we summarize what is known about the role they play in welfare reform. The first section is a review of state TANF sanction policies. In this section, we use existing information to describe the structure and stringency of work-oriented sanctions, their cost, the context in which they are applied, and strategies to encourage compliance. The second section is a review of research findings on sanctions--including the incidence and duration of sanctions, characteristics and circumstances of sanctioned families, and the impacts and the implementation of sanctions. The final section concludes with a summary of the gaps in our knowledge of the role of sanctions in welfare reform. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Pavetti, LaDonna; Derr, Michelle K.; Kirby, Gretchen; Wood, Robert G.; Clark, Melissa A.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2004

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once focused on the accurate delivery of cash benefits now focuses on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. Part of this shift translates into a dramatic increase in the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements — have become central features of most states' efforts to promote self-sufficiency through their TANF programs. A primary goal of work-oriented sanctions is to encourage TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so. A secondary goal is to encourage greater reporting of earnings, especially among families who work...

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once focused on the accurate delivery of cash benefits now focuses on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. Part of this shift translates into a dramatic increase in the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements — have become central features of most states' efforts to promote self-sufficiency through their TANF programs. A primary goal of work-oriented sanctions is to encourage TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so. A secondary goal is to encourage greater reporting of earnings, especially among families who work in jobs where earnings are not reported through official channels. The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences can be used to influence the decisions clients make. Sanctions have long been used to enforce program requirements. However, with the emergence of "full-family" sanctions that eliminate all of a family's cash grant, the imposition of work requirements on a greater share of the TANF caseload and greater emphasis on encouraging TANF recipients to become self-sufficient, they have taken on much greater significance.

    While consensus holds that sanctions have been an important policy change implemented through state welfare reform efforts, they are among the least studied. Additional information on the role sanctions have played in welfare reform can help inform policy discussions regarding whether all states should be required to impose more stringent sanctions and help program administrators identify strategies for using sanctions to promote greater compliance with program requirements. This report presents findings from a study of the use of sanctions in two local welfare offices in each of three states — Illinois, New Jersey, and South Carolina. In this chapter, we provide a brief context for the study, outline the study design, and describe the study states. Chapter II presents our findings on how the study sites implemented sanctions. Chapter III describes our findings on how often sanctions are used, how the characteristics of sanctioned and nonsanctioned families compare, and how sanctioned families fare over time. Finally, Chapter IV summarizes our findings and identifies important unanswered research questions. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Born, Catherine E.; Caudill, Pamela J.; Cordero, Melinda L.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1999

    One of the most radically different features of Maryland s reformed welfare system is its use of the full family sanction whereby, for non-compliance with certain program requirements, the entire family s cash assistance grant is terminated. The full family sanction option became available to states under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Previously, federal law did not generally permit states to terminate benefits to an entire household on the basis of an adult's non-compliant behavior. Under pre-PRWORA, waiver-based welfare reform, several states experimented with full family sanctions and a few reports on their experiences have been issued. For the most part though states which elected the full family sanctioning option under PRWORA had to do so with limited historical experience to guide them and virtually no empirical data to help them predict what the magnitude and effects of full family sanctioning might be. Given the newness and severity of this penalty, however, it seems imperative that states which adopted this policy...

    One of the most radically different features of Maryland s reformed welfare system is its use of the full family sanction whereby, for non-compliance with certain program requirements, the entire family s cash assistance grant is terminated. The full family sanction option became available to states under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Previously, federal law did not generally permit states to terminate benefits to an entire household on the basis of an adult's non-compliant behavior. Under pre-PRWORA, waiver-based welfare reform, several states experimented with full family sanctions and a few reports on their experiences have been issued. For the most part though states which elected the full family sanctioning option under PRWORA had to do so with limited historical experience to guide them and virtually no empirical data to help them predict what the magnitude and effects of full family sanctioning might be. Given the newness and severity of this penalty, however, it seems imperative that states which adopted this policy option examine how that policy has been working.

    Thanks to a long-standing research partnership between the Maryland Department of Human Resources and the University of Maryland School of Social Work, we are able to empirically examine this and other welfare reform issues. Since the outset of reform in Maryland (October, 1996) the School has been carrying out a large, longitudinal study, Life After Welfare, which tracks the experiences of several thousand families who have left the cash assistance rolls. The present report uses data from the Life After Welfare study and universe data from the state's welfare information management systems to examine the use and effects of full family sanctions for noncompliance with work and non-cooperation with child support during the first 18 months of reform (October, 1996 - March, 1998). (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Danielson, Caroline; Reed, Deborah
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2009

    California's welfare program - the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program - provides cash assistance to needy families while helping them gain self-sufficiency. Toward this end, most adults receiving CalWORKs are required to work; they may also (with some restrictions) combine work with education or training. If they do not work or do not seek employment and lack a valid exemption, CalWORKs adults risk losing a portion of their welfare grants.

    Federal rules require the state to have close to half of all adults on welfare working at least part-time, or engaged in a limited set of activities intended to lead to employment. Failure to meet this standard (the so-called "work participation rate") can result in substantial fiscal penalties for the state. The most recent official statistics indicate that only about one-fifth (22.2%) of CalWORKs families required to comply with the federal standard actually did in 2006.

    In his 2007, 2008, and 2009 budget proposals, Governor Schwarzenegger suggested major changes to the sanction and time-...

    California's welfare program - the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program - provides cash assistance to needy families while helping them gain self-sufficiency. Toward this end, most adults receiving CalWORKs are required to work; they may also (with some restrictions) combine work with education or training. If they do not work or do not seek employment and lack a valid exemption, CalWORKs adults risk losing a portion of their welfare grants.

    Federal rules require the state to have close to half of all adults on welfare working at least part-time, or engaged in a limited set of activities intended to lead to employment. Failure to meet this standard (the so-called "work participation rate") can result in substantial fiscal penalties for the state. The most recent official statistics indicate that only about one-fifth (22.2%) of CalWORKs families required to comply with the federal standard actually did in 2006.

    In his 2007, 2008, and 2009 budget proposals, Governor Schwarzenegger suggested major changes to the sanction and time-limit policies in the CalWORKs program, seeking to boost the share of welfare adults who are working. Current state law allows cash assistance to continue to children whose parents have been removed from aid ("sanctioned") for failing to meet work requirements. Similarly, current law limits adults to a maximum of 60 months of cash assistance, but their children's eligibility is not time limited.  The governor's proposals entailed eventually eliminating benefits to the entire family if parents are not working sufficient hours. To-date, the governor's sanction and time-limit proposals have not been included in an enacted budget.

    This report examines the likely effects that increasing the severity of sanction and time-limit policies would have on the welfare caseload, the state's work participation rate, and the economic circumstances of vulnerable families. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bagdasaryan, Sofya; Matthias, Ruth; Ong, Paul; Houston, Douglas
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2005

    The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. welfare program for poor families with children since its inception in the 1935 Social Security Act. To comply with the new federal law, California passed its Temporary Assistance to Needy Families plan in August 1997. Counties began implementing the new program, CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids), on January 1, 1998.

    The federal law increased work participation requirements for able-bodied adults and restricted the circumstances under which recipients can be exempted from working or engaging in work-related activities. If adults fail to comply with program rules without good cause, states reduce or eliminate cash aid to their households. These sanctions, or the threat of these sanctions, are intended both to motivate recipients to comply with work-related program requirements and, for those under sanction, to hasten their return to compliance (generally referred to as “curing” or “lifting” the sanctions).

    The...

    The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. welfare program for poor families with children since its inception in the 1935 Social Security Act. To comply with the new federal law, California passed its Temporary Assistance to Needy Families plan in August 1997. Counties began implementing the new program, CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids), on January 1, 1998.

    The federal law increased work participation requirements for able-bodied adults and restricted the circumstances under which recipients can be exempted from working or engaging in work-related activities. If adults fail to comply with program rules without good cause, states reduce or eliminate cash aid to their households. These sanctions, or the threat of these sanctions, are intended both to motivate recipients to comply with work-related program requirements and, for those under sanction, to hasten their return to compliance (generally referred to as “curing” or “lifting” the sanctions).

    The federal legislation gave states some leeway in defining the terms of recipient compliance and in prescribing the severity of the sanction for noncompliance. In California, CalWORKs requires adult heads of single-parent families to engage in 32 hours a week of work and work-related activities averaged over a month (the federal minimum in order to count toward the state’s work participation rate requirement is 30 hours). As under prior law, California imposes partial-family sanctions: a reduced cash grant to children in families in which the adult or adults have lost assistance because of noncompliance. In California, the policy did not change markedly, but sanctions are imposed more frequently than under the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program, the predecessor to CalWORKs.

    In order to better understand how California counties administer sanctions, the University of California’s Welfare Policy Research Project commissioned a study to answer six questions:

    (1) How do counties implement sanction procedures prescribed by CalWORKs? (2) How, if at all, do counties attempt to prevent sanctions, and how do they help recipients to lift a sanction once it has been imposed? (3) How knowledgeable are county welfare workers about CalWORKs sanction policies, and (4) what opinions do they hold about the purpose and efficacy of sanctions? (5) How well do recipients in these counties understand sanction policies, and (6) what have their experiences been with these policies? To address these questions, we examined in depth the sanction policies and procedures in four highly disparate counties: Alameda, Fresno, Kern, and San Diego. (author abstract)

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