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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: Burke, Vee; Falk, Gene
    Year: 2001

    The 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193) established a block grant program for time-limited and work-conditioned aid for needy families with children called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF requires that states penalize families if a recipient refuses to engage in required work. States determine actual penalties. According to TANF state plans, for a first violation, 19 states end family benefits until compliance, or for a minimum penalty period. Others reduce benefits for a first infraction. For repeat violations, penalties are increased in size or length. Counting both first and subsequent violations, 38 jurisdictions under some circumstances have provisions to penalize work infractions by ending family benefits for a time. Ultimately, seven of those 38 jurisdictions end family benefits for life. In FY1999, sanctions (including some not related to work) caused the closing of 156,000 TANF cases (6% of all closures). (author abstract)

    The 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193) established a block grant program for time-limited and work-conditioned aid for needy families with children called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF requires that states penalize families if a recipient refuses to engage in required work. States determine actual penalties. According to TANF state plans, for a first violation, 19 states end family benefits until compliance, or for a minimum penalty period. Others reduce benefits for a first infraction. For repeat violations, penalties are increased in size or length. Counting both first and subsequent violations, 38 jurisdictions under some circumstances have provisions to penalize work infractions by ending family benefits for a time. Ultimately, seven of those 38 jurisdictions end family benefits for life. In FY1999, sanctions (including some not related to work) caused the closing of 156,000 TANF cases (6% of all closures). (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)

  • Individual Author: Bloom, Dan; Winstead, Don
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2002

    Financial sanctions have long been used to enforce work requirements in the welfare system, but more frequent and severe sanctions have been a central feature of the welfare reforms of the 1990s. Sanctions will be an important discussion topic in 2002 when Congress debates reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform law. Some will argue that states should be required to use “full-family” sanctions that terminate the entire cash benefit, while others will push for restrictions on completely terminating cash benefits and new requirements for states to reach out to noncompliant families before imposing complete termination. There is little hard evidence to inform this debate. Studies have found that welfare recipients who are sanctioned are a diverse group but, on average, face more barriers to employment than other recipients; they are also less likely to work after leaving welfare. Studies have also found that enforcing work requirements is important, but it is not clear whether complete termination of benefits is more effective than partial termination. We believe states should...

    Financial sanctions have long been used to enforce work requirements in the welfare system, but more frequent and severe sanctions have been a central feature of the welfare reforms of the 1990s. Sanctions will be an important discussion topic in 2002 when Congress debates reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform law. Some will argue that states should be required to use “full-family” sanctions that terminate the entire cash benefit, while others will push for restrictions on completely terminating cash benefits and new requirements for states to reach out to noncompliant families before imposing complete termination. There is little hard evidence to inform this debate. Studies have found that welfare recipients who are sanctioned are a diverse group but, on average, face more barriers to employment than other recipients; they are also less likely to work after leaving welfare. Studies have also found that enforcing work requirements is important, but it is not clear whether complete termination of benefits is more effective than partial termination. We believe states should continue to have flexibility in setting sanction policies. To reduce inappropriate sanctions, Congress could expand the types of work activities for disadvantaged recipients, and require states to describe both how they will inform recipients about exemptions from work requirements and what is required to remove a sanction. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Kauff, Jacqueline; Derr, Michelle K. ; Pavetti, LaDonna; Martin, Emily S.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2007

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provided a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  In doing so, it required states to engage certain minimum percentages of their TANF caseloads—50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families—in specified work and work-related activities for a specified number of hours per week.  Sanctions, or financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements, have long been perceived as a major tool for encouraging TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so.  The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences—such as a reduction in the TANF cash grant (a partial sanction) or gradual or immediate termination of the TANF grant (a full-family sanction)—can help influence the participation decisions that welfare recipients make.

    In reauthorizing the TANF program, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) changed the way the work participation rates are calculated and thereby...

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provided a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  In doing so, it required states to engage certain minimum percentages of their TANF caseloads—50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families—in specified work and work-related activities for a specified number of hours per week.  Sanctions, or financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements, have long been perceived as a major tool for encouraging TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so.  The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences—such as a reduction in the TANF cash grant (a partial sanction) or gradual or immediate termination of the TANF grant (a full-family sanction)—can help influence the participation decisions that welfare recipients make.

    In reauthorizing the TANF program, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) changed the way the work participation rates are calculated and thereby effectively increased the rates required of states.  Work participation rates are calculated by dividing a numerator consisting of “participants”—families engaged in federally acceptable work activities for the requisite hours per week—by a denominator that is a count of “total families.”  Largely because states received credits in their participation rates for caseload reductions that occurred after 1995 and because the count of “total families” included only certain TANF recipients, the real rates that states had to meet prior to the DRA were substantially below 50 and 90 percent.  As of fiscal year 2007, states will receive credits in their participation rates for caseload reductions that occur after 2005 and the count of “total families” will include TANF recipients as well as families receiving assistance through separate state programs that count toward maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements.  Because of these changes, states now face the challenge of achieving participation rates that are considerably higher and close to the 50 and 90 percent standards set in the law.  As states consider their options for meeting the higher work participation rates, they are likely to consider how they might redefine their TANF and separate state programs and make better use of sanction policies and procedures to encourage higher levels of participation in program activities. (author abstract)

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