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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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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: Blank, Rebecca M.
    Reference Type: Conference Paper
    Year: 2004

    In August 1996, the Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Many pieces of legislation are heralded as “pathbreaking reform” when they are passed. PRWORA was an exception in that such a claim has turned out to be correct. The changes that PRWORA initiated, along with several related policy changes that occurred at the same time, have fundamentally altered the ways in which we provide assistance to low-income families in the United States. The implications of these changes are only beginning to be understood. This paper reviews the provisions of PRWORA and its subsequent effects on welfare programs, provides some simple empirical summaries of the changes in behavior and well-being since the mid-1990s, summarizes the existing literature that analyzes the effects of these reforms and discusses a set of key questions about the effects of these reforms that are still unanswered. (author introduction)

    In August 1996, the Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Many pieces of legislation are heralded as “pathbreaking reform” when they are passed. PRWORA was an exception in that such a claim has turned out to be correct. The changes that PRWORA initiated, along with several related policy changes that occurred at the same time, have fundamentally altered the ways in which we provide assistance to low-income families in the United States. The implications of these changes are only beginning to be understood. This paper reviews the provisions of PRWORA and its subsequent effects on welfare programs, provides some simple empirical summaries of the changes in behavior and well-being since the mid-1990s, summarizes the existing literature that analyzes the effects of these reforms and discusses a set of key questions about the effects of these reforms that are still unanswered. (author introduction)

  • Individual Author: Kaplan, Jan
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2004

    In many states, a significant proportion of the welfare caseload has been sanctioned for not complying with program rules. In those states, as well as in states with fewer sanctioned cases, the penalized clients are likely to have one or more barriers to employment. They may have lower levels of education and job skills and/or be affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health problems. Or they may have health, disability, or caregiving issues or lack transportation or child care. These same barriers are likely to continue to impede clients’ ability to find jobs and become self-sufficient after the imposition of a sanction. Consequently, many families will face numerous challenges when their cash assistance is reduced or suspended because of a sanction.

     The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) requires states to sanction welfare clients who do not comply with the work requirements of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. States may also sanction individuals who do not comply with...

    In many states, a significant proportion of the welfare caseload has been sanctioned for not complying with program rules. In those states, as well as in states with fewer sanctioned cases, the penalized clients are likely to have one or more barriers to employment. They may have lower levels of education and job skills and/or be affected by domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health problems. Or they may have health, disability, or caregiving issues or lack transportation or child care. These same barriers are likely to continue to impede clients’ ability to find jobs and become self-sufficient after the imposition of a sanction. Consequently, many families will face numerous challenges when their cash assistance is reduced or suspended because of a sanction.

     The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) requires states to sanction welfare clients who do not comply with the work requirements of the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. States may also sanction individuals who do not comply with other TANF rules, such as requirements that children receive immunizations and attend school. The law allows states to define noncompliance and to determine the severity of the penalty, exemptions, procedures to help clients avoid a sanction, and the process to restore benefits. Sanction policies may range from short-term partial benefit reduction to full-benefit termination for the entire family. In some states, adults may lose their cash assistance because of a sanction, but other family members remain eligible.

     Federal and state policies exempt some families with severe employment barriers from sanctions, and federal law prohibits states from penalizing a single parent with a child below age six if child care is not available. In addition, some states use intensive case management, mental health and substance abuse assessments, home visits, presanction reviews, and other mechanisms to determine whether a client has “good cause” to be excluded from TANF participation requirements and protected from a potential sanction.

     Outcomes for sanctioned clients and their families will depend on the scope and duration of the penalty, the availability of other community and family supports, the availability of employment opportunities, and the economic impact of the loss of income. These factors may also affect a client’s decision to come into compliance with program rules and “cure” a sanction according to his or her state’s compliance policies. Some clients will decide against returning to welfare and will seek employment, apply for other public benefits, and/or turn to relatives and friends for assistance to meet daily needs. In seven states, the welfare agency closes cases after repeated or continued noncompliance.

    This Issue Note highlights post-sanction strategies that states can use to address clients’ needs, help clients “cure” their sanction, and improve clients’ access to other public benefits to prevent hardship. (author abstract)

    The original hyperlink to this resource has been removed by the publisher. You may obtain a single use PDF by emailing the SSRC at ssrc@opressrc.org.

  • Individual Author: Goldberg, Heidi; Schott, Liz
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    While this report was issued prior to the enactment of the DRA, it includes useful research on sanctions and examples of how states can craft a sanction policy that reduces noncompliance and uncovers underlying barriers to participation.

    Analysis of data from states and other sources indicates that under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, states and counties have imposed sanctions that reduced or terminated benefits to several hundred thousand families.  Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, states and counties have imposed sanctions that reduced or terminated benefits to hundreds of thousands of families. Under the federal law, states must require recipients to participate in work activities and must impose financial penalties on families that refuse, without good cause, to do so. When sanctions are imposed, some or all family members lose TANF cash benefits. The benefit loss may be partial or complete and it may be temporary or permanent, depending on the policies chosen by each state.

    Many states have...

    While this report was issued prior to the enactment of the DRA, it includes useful research on sanctions and examples of how states can craft a sanction policy that reduces noncompliance and uncovers underlying barriers to participation.

    Analysis of data from states and other sources indicates that under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, states and counties have imposed sanctions that reduced or terminated benefits to several hundred thousand families.  Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, states and counties have imposed sanctions that reduced or terminated benefits to hundreds of thousands of families. Under the federal law, states must require recipients to participate in work activities and must impose financial penalties on families that refuse, without good cause, to do so. When sanctions are imposed, some or all family members lose TANF cash benefits. The benefit loss may be partial or complete and it may be temporary or permanent, depending on the policies chosen by each state.

    Many states have adopted sanction policies that are more stringent than required under federal law. In the long run, these policies may not serve, and indeed may impede, the goal of moving families from welfare to work and independence. Policies more stringent than required are found in the 36 states that impose full-family sanctions, which terminate cash assistance to the entire family, and in the 39 states that continue sanctions for fixed periods of time, even if the family has come into compliance with the requirements during the sanction period. Moreover, many states have curtailed or eliminated procedural protections for families facing a sanction.

    These aggressive sanction policies appear to be aimed at families that, while able to comply with work requirements, simply refuse to do so; they were intended to send a strong message that work requirements would be enforced. Evidence after four years of TANF, however, indicates that families sanctioned for noncompliance with work requirements are not primarily those that refuse work, but rather those that face substantial barriers to employment. Sanctioned families are characterized by a high incidence of health problems and low education levels as well as a lack of transportation and child care. In addition, there is evidence that sanctioned families often do not know or understand what actions they are required to take to be in compliance or the consequences of failing to take those actions. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Casey, Timothy
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    A new report by Legal Momentum, demonstrates the serious harm financial sanctions cause Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. Legal Momentum's report shows that these sanctions are very common and that many are imposed erroneously or for extremely minor violations, such as missing an appointment or failing to file a document. These penalties cause real hardship: sanctioned TANF families often report maternal or child hunger, eviction or homelessness, and lack of medical care.

    Though sanctions have contributed to a sharp decline in TANF participation by eligible families, federal TANF policy continues to incentivize states to impose them.   

    Congress must reform the TANF sanction system when it considers the program for reauthorization. (author abstract)

    A new report by Legal Momentum, demonstrates the serious harm financial sanctions cause Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. Legal Momentum's report shows that these sanctions are very common and that many are imposed erroneously or for extremely minor violations, such as missing an appointment or failing to file a document. These penalties cause real hardship: sanctioned TANF families often report maternal or child hunger, eviction or homelessness, and lack of medical care.

    Though sanctions have contributed to a sharp decline in TANF participation by eligible families, federal TANF policy continues to incentivize states to impose them.   

    Congress must reform the TANF sanction system when it considers the program for reauthorization. (author abstract)

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