Workfirst: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Contact: Carla Reyes
Department of Social and Health Services, Community Services Division
P.O. Box 45440
Olympia, WA 98504-5440
State Website: www.workfirst.wa.gov
Local Link: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/onlinecso/findservice.shtml
Participation: A monthly average of 40,930 TANF adults were served in State Fiscal Year 2011 (June 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011).
Who is Served: The program provides cash grants, medical assistance, welfare-to work services, and work supports (including subsidized child care through the Working Connections Child Care program) to eligible low-income families. The goal of WorkFirst is to help low-income families build a pathway that can lead them out of poverty and toward economic security.
Program Description: Receipt of WorkFirst benefits is limited to 60 months in a lifetime. The limit may be exceeded if it is determined that the individual qualifies for a time limit hardship extension as defined in WAC 388-484-0006.
Most WorkFirst parents are required to participate in work activities for a minimum of 32 hours per week. If a parent refuses to participate, they risk sanction and could have their grant reduced by 40% or the person’s share, whichever is greater. If they continue in sanction for four consecutive months, the family can lose their benefits. Some parents are exempt from work requirements, including those with severe and chronic medical conditions, parents of infants, needy caretaker relatives over age 55, or persons needed in the home to care for a disabled child or adult.
Upon entering WorkFirst, recipients receive a Comprehensive Evaluation (CE) to identify their skills and abilities. This evaluationis designed to help WorkFirst recipients achieve better and quicker engagement in employment-related activities which lead to employment. Based on information gathered during the CE process, staff work with the parent to develop an Individual Responsibility Plan. Support services are provided to facilitate involvement in the WorkFirst program. Child care assistance, transportation, and other job-related expenditures are a part of the job planning process.
Other Program Characteristics: Six state agencies jointly carry out the program, with oversight provided by the Department of Social and Health Services:
- Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
- Employment Security Department
- State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Early Learning
- Office of Financial Management
For additional information about these agencies and their involvement in the WorkFirst program, please visit the WorkFirst website at www.workfirst.wa.gov.
Program History: The federal welfare reform law passed by Congress in 1996 replaced the welfare entitlement program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, with a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal block grant. States use these block grant funds to design and operate their own TANF programs, within certain federal parameters and requirements. While states have broad flexibility in designing appropriate TANF programs and services, including cash assistance, the federal law requires that families move from welfare to self-sufficiency through work. A state’s TANF program must meet minimum work participation rates that reflect how well it succeeds in engaging parents in work activities.
Planning Cycle: Annual.
Outcome Measures: TANF program outcome measures include: participation in WorkFirst activities; placement of recipients into private, unsubsidized jobs; case closures due to employment; recidivism to the caseload; and earnings.
Funding and Regional Division: The Department of Social and Health Services provides services to eligible TANF/WorkFirst families through three service delivery regions, over 50 local Community Services Offices, and a statewide Customer Service Call Center. Regions coordinate services through a network of local partnerships (Local Planning Areas) comprised of representatives from WorkFirst partner agencies, community organizations, and tribal governments workforce and economic development agencies, and individual citizens.
TANF is funded with federal block grant and state Maintenance of Effort dollars.
State Funding: $30,100,262 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012) Maintenance-of-effort funds. Note: This is a rough estimate.
Federal Funding: $32,303,144 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012) Note: This is a rough estimate. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (TANF Block Grant). This includes DSHS operations staff, local contracts, and client services and support. Tribal services and child care expenditures are not included. TANF and state funds transferred to other state agencies managing additional elements of the WorkFirst program are listed separately.
Statutory Authority: Federal - PL 109-171 (Deficit Reduction Act of 2005); PL 104-193 (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996); 42 USC 601; 45 CFR Part 260. State – RCW 74.08A and 74.12. Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996).