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  • Individual Author: Moreno, Manuel H.; Toros, Halil; Joshi, Vandana; Stevens, Max; Mehrtash, Farhad; Beardsley, Julie; Salem, Nancy; Horton, John; Shaw, Linda
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2005

    The research conducted for this report was undertaken as a result of recommendations made by the Commission for Public Social Services regarding the need for systematic information on welfare sanctions and the sanctioned population in the County of Los Angeles. The proportion of sanctioned welfare participants in the County of Los Angeles over the last two years has been comparable to the sanction rate for the State of California as a whole. Nevertheless, community advocates and policymakers alike have expressed interest in lowering the sanction rate in the County of Los Angeles and enhancing participants’ capacity to comply with Welfare-to-Work requirements. In addition, there is ongoing interest in the extent to which sanctions actually encourage compliance. These issues can only be addressed with rigorous research of the kind that was carried out in preparing this report.

    Several different sources of data and distinct but complementary methods of social research were used to generate this study’s findings. Statistical techniques were employed to analyze administrative...

    The research conducted for this report was undertaken as a result of recommendations made by the Commission for Public Social Services regarding the need for systematic information on welfare sanctions and the sanctioned population in the County of Los Angeles. The proportion of sanctioned welfare participants in the County of Los Angeles over the last two years has been comparable to the sanction rate for the State of California as a whole. Nevertheless, community advocates and policymakers alike have expressed interest in lowering the sanction rate in the County of Los Angeles and enhancing participants’ capacity to comply with Welfare-to-Work requirements. In addition, there is ongoing interest in the extent to which sanctions actually encourage compliance. These issues can only be addressed with rigorous research of the kind that was carried out in preparing this report.

    Several different sources of data and distinct but complementary methods of social research were used to generate this study’s findings. Statistical techniques were employed to analyze administrative records and a staff survey. In addition, focus group interviews were conducted and analyzed for the purpose of obtaining qualitative data on how perceptions of the sanctions process shape the actions taken by both Welfare-to-Work participants and caseworkers. The use of qualitative and quantitative methods in concert with each other enables this report to provide well-rounded information on sanctions, sanctioned participants, and the employees who manage their cases.

    This study covers the period from April 2002 to February 2004. After describing the sanctions policy environment in the County of Los Angeles, this report goes on to identify the County’s sanctioned population, analyze the County’s sanction rates, and look at the amount of time it takes participants to become sanctioned. This report also examines the factors that increase and decrease the probability of both being sanctioned and making a return to compliance after a sanction has been issued. Focus group data reveals many of the challenges that both Welfare-to-Work participants and caseworkers face in the course of engaging with sanctions policy, and staff survey data sheds light on how issues such as caseload size, work experience and the way in which sanction policy is implemented by the GAIN Service Workers affect the frequency of sanctions. The final chapter makes policy recommendations based on this report’s quantitative and qualitative findings. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Klerman, Jacob Alex; Burstain, Jane McClure
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2008

    In 2004, the California legislature passed a bill that tightened the participation requirement for California’s welfare program, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program (CalWORKs) and mandated a study of CalWORKs sanction policy for participant noncompliance in the welfare-to-work program. RAND was asked by the California Department of Social Services to carry out this study. Researchers found that county welfare caseworkers’ implementation of the state’s statutory sanction policy makes the sanctions weaker in practice than might have been expected given stated policy. Both caseworkers and higher-level county welfare department employees are strongly reluctant to sanction clients. Furthermore, caseworkers perceive the statutory noncompliance process to be burdensome. Finally, the implementation of sanction policy varies widely across California’s 58 counties. RAND noted three possible directions for reforming California’s sanction policy and practice: (1) swifter sanctions, (2) stronger sanctions with greater financial penalties, and (3...

    In 2004, the California legislature passed a bill that tightened the participation requirement for California’s welfare program, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program (CalWORKs) and mandated a study of CalWORKs sanction policy for participant noncompliance in the welfare-to-work program. RAND was asked by the California Department of Social Services to carry out this study. Researchers found that county welfare caseworkers’ implementation of the state’s statutory sanction policy makes the sanctions weaker in practice than might have been expected given stated policy. Both caseworkers and higher-level county welfare department employees are strongly reluctant to sanction clients. Furthermore, caseworkers perceive the statutory noncompliance process to be burdensome. Finally, the implementation of sanction policy varies widely across California’s 58 counties. RAND noted three possible directions for reforming California’s sanction policy and practice: (1) swifter sanctions, (2) stronger sanctions with greater financial penalties, and (3) safer sanctions, to ensure that clients are not inappropriately sanctioned due to some combination of caseworker error, lack of knowledge of how to remedy the sanction, or the existence of undisclosed serious barriers. (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)

  • Individual Author: Brown, June
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1999

    This is one of three OIG reports on how States administer client sanctions under TANF. One companion report, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Client Sanctions (OEI-09-98-00290), provides a broad overview of State administration of client sanctions. The other, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:  Improving Client Sanction Notices (OEI-09-98-00292), reviews State methods for informing clients of sanction decisions via written notices.

    The purpose of this report is to determine how States inform clients about sanction policies under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  We find that:

    - TANF offices explain sanctions to clients repeatedly, using diverse methods

    - Orientation materials commonly lack information about the amount of the sanction and the definition of good cause

    - Most States describe other vital information about sanctions completely and present it in a logical format

    - TANF clients do not fully understand sanctions and, according to caseworkers, are not...

    This is one of three OIG reports on how States administer client sanctions under TANF. One companion report, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of Client Sanctions (OEI-09-98-00290), provides a broad overview of State administration of client sanctions. The other, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:  Improving Client Sanction Notices (OEI-09-98-00292), reviews State methods for informing clients of sanction decisions via written notices.

    The purpose of this report is to determine how States inform clients about sanction policies under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  We find that:

    - TANF offices explain sanctions to clients repeatedly, using diverse methods

    - Orientation materials commonly lack information about the amount of the sanction and the definition of good cause

    - Most States describe other vital information about sanctions completely and present it in a logical format

    - TANF clients do not fully understand sanctions and, according to caseworkers, are not concerned about sanctions until they are imposed

    We recommend that the Administration for Children and Families encourage States to provide complete, correct, and understandable information to clients on: the causes of sanctions; the amounts of sanctions; the duration of sanctions; “good cause” reasons for work exemptions; and client appeal, fair hearing, and, if applicable, conciliation rights. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Brown, June
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1999

    We purposefully selected eight States in which to visit at least one urban and one rural office. In total, we visited 26 TANF offices, where we held caseworker focus groups, director interviews, and limited case-file reviews of recently sanctioned cases with individual caseworkers. At 19 of the offices, we conducted client focus groups and also interviewed at least one advocacy group in each State. In addition, we collected sanction policies and notices from each State. Lastly, we reviewed 47 notices issued by the offices that we visited, evaluating each for completeness and clarity.

    The methods we used during this study pose some distinct advantages and disadvantages for the scope of our findings. The purposeful sample allowed us to examine sanction implementation in States with widely varying attributes. We also gained a thorough understanding of our respondents’ relationships with and attitudes towards sanctions. Our methodology precludes us, however, from commenting on the extent to which our findings and observations are representative nationwide. We also cannot...

    We purposefully selected eight States in which to visit at least one urban and one rural office. In total, we visited 26 TANF offices, where we held caseworker focus groups, director interviews, and limited case-file reviews of recently sanctioned cases with individual caseworkers. At 19 of the offices, we conducted client focus groups and also interviewed at least one advocacy group in each State. In addition, we collected sanction policies and notices from each State. Lastly, we reviewed 47 notices issued by the offices that we visited, evaluating each for completeness and clarity.

    The methods we used during this study pose some distinct advantages and disadvantages for the scope of our findings. The purposeful sample allowed us to examine sanction implementation in States with widely varying attributes. We also gained a thorough understanding of our respondents’ relationships with and attitudes towards sanctions. Our methodology precludes us, however, from commenting on the extent to which our findings and observations are representative nationwide. We also cannot evaluate direct outcomes of sanction policies, procedures, and practices on clients and the program.

    Comprehensive and understandable notices can improve the sanction process. A sanction notice with complete information in a clear format can improve client understanding and help alleviate frustration for both clients and caseworkers.

    Sanction notices are deficient in some respects. Although most notices adequately explain some sanction details, many lack instructions on how to cure sanctions and do not reference local legal aid. A few notices contain incorrect information which can mislead clients and create extra work for caseworkers. Confusing wording on notices impedes client understanding, an effect heightened by language barriers. (author abstract)

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