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  • Individual Author: Butler, Sandra
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2013

    In 2011 the Maine legislature established a 60-month lifetime limit on the length of time that poor families with children could receive help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. The time limit was implemented as of June 2012. During the next four and one-half months more than 1,500 families, including an estimated 2,700 children, lost this assistance.

    Sandra Butler, a professor of Social Work at the University of Maine with over twenty years of experience in research related to low-income Maine families, conducted a study of the impact of this time limit on the first wave of families to lose their TANF assistance. This work, which included both a survey and personal interviews with a sample of affected families, was commissioned by Maine Equal Justice Partners.

    The study found that families losing assistance face multiple barriers to work and experience severe hardships as a result of losing TANF assistance due to time limits. Further, the findings indicate a failure by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to properly...

    In 2011 the Maine legislature established a 60-month lifetime limit on the length of time that poor families with children could receive help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. The time limit was implemented as of June 2012. During the next four and one-half months more than 1,500 families, including an estimated 2,700 children, lost this assistance.

    Sandra Butler, a professor of Social Work at the University of Maine with over twenty years of experience in research related to low-income Maine families, conducted a study of the impact of this time limit on the first wave of families to lose their TANF assistance. This work, which included both a survey and personal interviews with a sample of affected families, was commissioned by Maine Equal Justice Partners.

    The study found that families losing assistance face multiple barriers to work and experience severe hardships as a result of losing TANF assistance due to time limits. Further, the findings indicate a failure by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to properly implement key statutory protections in a fair and uniform manner. This survey also raises important questions about the adequacy of services provided to families, particularly those with disabilities, through the ASPIRE program while they are receiving TANF. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Logan, Letitia; Saunders, Correne; Born, Catherine
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    One controversial feature of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, aka ‘welfare reform,’ was the unprecedented imposition, with few exceptions, of an across-the-board limit of five years (shorter at state option) on adults’ receipt of federally-funded cash assistance. However, because some recipient families have complex, difficult problems that are not easily or quickly resolved, PRWORA also included a ‘hardship exemption’ provision. This allows states to provide federally-funded aid beyond 60 months, but to no more than 20 percent of their caseloads. The 60-month time limit clock began to tick in Maryland in January 1997, and consequently, families began to exceed the limit in January 2002, the 61st month of the ticking clock. More than 10 years later, the clock still ticks. As each month passes, the number of families nearing the time limit and thus becoming potentially eligible for a hardship exemption ineluctably increases.

    Thus, it behooves states to continuously monitor where they are vis-à-vis the 20 percent cap and...

    One controversial feature of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, aka ‘welfare reform,’ was the unprecedented imposition, with few exceptions, of an across-the-board limit of five years (shorter at state option) on adults’ receipt of federally-funded cash assistance. However, because some recipient families have complex, difficult problems that are not easily or quickly resolved, PRWORA also included a ‘hardship exemption’ provision. This allows states to provide federally-funded aid beyond 60 months, but to no more than 20 percent of their caseloads. The 60-month time limit clock began to tick in Maryland in January 1997, and consequently, families began to exceed the limit in January 2002, the 61st month of the ticking clock. More than 10 years later, the clock still ticks. As each month passes, the number of families nearing the time limit and thus becoming potentially eligible for a hardship exemption ineluctably increases.

    Thus, it behooves states to continuously monitor where they are vis-à-vis the 20 percent cap and to have a solid understanding of their time-limited and hardship populations should the 20 percent cap be reached. If and when this happens, difficult rationing decisions would have to be made about which families would be exempted and which would not. Alternatively, state general funds would have to fill the gap, a gap that could get larger with each passing year. Neither scenario is appealing, but thankfully the most recent estimates are that Maryland is at least a few years away from reaching the 20 percent cap. Moreover, because of its commitment to data-driven decision-making, the Family Investment Administration of the Maryland Department of Human Resources and its research partner, the Family Welfare Group at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work have tracked the time-limited population for many years and issued multiple reports on the subject.

    Today’s report adds to our available body of knowledge on this subject by looking at the universe of 7,143 Maryland cases which exceeded the 60-month limit on benefit receipt and were granted a hardship exemption (so that benefits did not cease) between January 2002 and August 2010. Specifically, we use administrative data to describe demographic and case characteristics and cash assistance utilization patterns of the hardship population, the extent of their participation in work activities, the nature of the activities to which they are assigned, and the barriers which are documented as being present in their lives. To determine if there have been any changes over time in the size, distribution or composition of the hardship caseload, we present findings by time period cohort: January 2002 through December 2005 (n=4,746); January 2006 through December 2009 (n=2,035); and January 2010 through August 2010 (n=362). (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bloom, Dan; Farrell, Mary; Kemple, James J.; Verma, Nandita
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1998

    This is the third report in MDRC’s multi-year evaluation of Florida’s Family Transition Program (FTP), one of the first welfare reform initiatives in the nation to impose a time limit on the receipt of cash assistance.

    The report finds that FTP’s impacts are occurring in stages. In the first two years of the follow-up period, before participants could have reached FTP’s time limit (24 months for most recipients), the program increased employment rates and earnings, but did not affect the rate of welfare receipt. Thus, the program’s primary effect was to increase the proportion of people who were combining work and welfare. FTP also raised families’ combined income from public assistance and earnings. (Although the program did not reduce the number of people receiving welfare during this period, it did reduce the average amount of welfare payments per person.)

    Findings for the first enrollees to enter the study suggest that the pattern of results began to change just after the two-year point, as small numbers of FTP participants began to reach the time limit and have...

    This is the third report in MDRC’s multi-year evaluation of Florida’s Family Transition Program (FTP), one of the first welfare reform initiatives in the nation to impose a time limit on the receipt of cash assistance.

    The report finds that FTP’s impacts are occurring in stages. In the first two years of the follow-up period, before participants could have reached FTP’s time limit (24 months for most recipients), the program increased employment rates and earnings, but did not affect the rate of welfare receipt. Thus, the program’s primary effect was to increase the proportion of people who were combining work and welfare. FTP also raised families’ combined income from public assistance and earnings. (Although the program did not reduce the number of people receiving welfare during this period, it did reduce the average amount of welfare payments per person.)

    Findings for the first enrollees to enter the study suggest that the pattern of results began to change just after the two-year point, as small numbers of FTP participants began to reach the time limit and have their welfare benefits canceled. FTP began to generate significant reductions in the rate of welfare receipt at that point. Also, FTP began to increase the proportion of people who were working and not receiving cash assistance.

    The report also describes the multi-stage process that occurs as FTP participants approach the time limit. To date, almost all those who used up their allotted months of benefit receipt had their benefits canceled. At the same time, only a small proportion of FTP participants have reached that point; most left welfare before reaching the time limit, and still had some time remaining on their "clocks." Finally, the report provides contextual information that is critical to interpreting the impact results. For example, it illustrates that FTP involved much more than a time limit – the program has been generously funded, and has provided an unusually rich array of services and supports to its participants. In addition, the report notes that FTP has operated in a strong labor market, during a time when Florida’s statewide welfare caseload has dropped precipitously.

    The unfolding story of FTP provides a preview of the issues and potential impacts of more recent welfare reform initiatives being implemented in Florida and other states under the 1996 federal welfare law. Although the story is far from over, the study is already providing valuable early data. Future reports in the study will continue to document the results of this important program, and will address critical open issues, such as how families fare after their welfare grants are canceled. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bloom, Dan; Kemple, James J.; Morris, Pamela; Scrivener, Susan; Verma, Nandita; Hendra, Richard; Adams-Ciardullo, Diana; Seith, David; Walter, Johanna
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    Launched in 1994, Florida’s pilot Family Transition Program (FTP) was the first welfare reform initiative in which some families reached a time limit on their welfare eligibility and had their benefits canceled. Today, almost all states have welfare time limits (and there is a 60-month lifetime limit on federally funded assistance), although relatively few families have yet reached those limits.

    FTP, which operated in Escambia County (including Pensacola) until 1999, limited most families to 24 months of cash welfare assistance in any 60-month period (the least job-ready were limited to 36 months in any 72-month period) and provided a wide array of services and incentives to help welfare recipients find work. Florida’s statewide welfare program incorporates many of the pilot program’s features but differs from it in key ways; thus, the evaluation of FTP did not assess the statewide program.

    MDRC evaluated FTP under a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Several thousand welfare applicants and...

    Launched in 1994, Florida’s pilot Family Transition Program (FTP) was the first welfare reform initiative in which some families reached a time limit on their welfare eligibility and had their benefits canceled. Today, almost all states have welfare time limits (and there is a 60-month lifetime limit on federally funded assistance), although relatively few families have yet reached those limits.

    FTP, which operated in Escambia County (including Pensacola) until 1999, limited most families to 24 months of cash welfare assistance in any 60-month period (the least job-ready were limited to 36 months in any 72-month period) and provided a wide array of services and incentives to help welfare recipients find work. Florida’s statewide welfare program incorporates many of the pilot program’s features but differs from it in key ways; thus, the evaluation of FTP did not assess the statewide program.

    MDRC evaluated FTP under a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Several thousand welfare applicants and recipients (mostly single mothers) were assigned, at random, to FTP or to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) group, which was subject to the prior welfare rules. FTP’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over a four-year period.

    Key Findings

    - Reflecting a sharp decline in Florida’s overall welfare caseload, most families in the AFDC group left welfare during the study period. Nevertheless, owing to its time limit, FTP substantially reduced long-term welfare receipt: Only 6 percent of families in the FTP group received welfare for more than 36 months compared with 17 percent in the AFDC group.

    - Relative to families in the AFDC group, FTP families gained more in earnings than they lost in welfare payments, resulting in a modestly higher average income for the FTP group. However, these gains in earnings and income came in the middle of the study period; by the end, the two groups were equally likely to be working and had about the same income.

    - Only 17 percent of families in the FTP group reached their time limit during the study period. Most of the others did not accumulate 24 or 36 months of benefit receipt (some received 24 or 36 months, but were granted medical exemptions that stopped their time-limit clocks). Somewhat less than half of those who reached their time limit worked steadily in the subsequent 18 months, and many relied heavily on family, friends, Food Stamps, and housing assistance for support. Most of these families struggled financially, but did not appear to be worse off than many other families who left welfare for other reasons.

    - FTP had few impacts, positive or negative, on the well-being of elementary-school-aged children. Among adolescents, however, children in the FTP group performed somewhat worse than their AFDC counterparts on a couple of measures of school performance.

    The final results from the FTP evaluation show that, at least under certain circumstances, time limits can be implemented without having widespread, severe consequences for families. Nevertheless, caution is in order: FTP operated in a strong local and national labor market, had plentiful resources for staff and services, and imposed no lifetime limit on welfare receipt. Where these conditions do not hold, the consequences of time limits might differ from those found in this evaluation.

    (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Moreno, Manuel H.; Toros, Halil; Joshi, Vandana; Stevens, Max
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2004

    On January 1, 2003, the first group of welfare participants in the County of Los Angeles reached their five-year time limits on cash assistance received through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors was concerned about how CalWORKs participants and their families have fared after reaching time limits. As a result, on January 21, 2003, the Board adopted a motion instructing the Director of the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to:

    • Collect data for a six-month period to determine how the time limits have affected employment, family structure, housing stability, supportive service needs, and income.
    • Select a sample of individuals who have not timed-out and collect the same data for comparison purposes.

    DPSS contracted with the Chief Administrative Office, Service Integration Branch-Research and Evaluation Services to carry out the evaluation. The present report encapsulates the research conducted to comply with the Board motion. (author introduction)...

    On January 1, 2003, the first group of welfare participants in the County of Los Angeles reached their five-year time limits on cash assistance received through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors was concerned about how CalWORKs participants and their families have fared after reaching time limits. As a result, on January 21, 2003, the Board adopted a motion instructing the Director of the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) to:

    • Collect data for a six-month period to determine how the time limits have affected employment, family structure, housing stability, supportive service needs, and income.
    • Select a sample of individuals who have not timed-out and collect the same data for comparison purposes.

    DPSS contracted with the Chief Administrative Office, Service Integration Branch-Research and Evaluation Services to carry out the evaluation. The present report encapsulates the research conducted to comply with the Board motion. (author introduction)

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