As welfare caseloads have declined over the past decade, policymakers and administrators have focused increasingly on long-term and hard-to-employ recipients who have not made a stable transition from welfare to work. Many of these recipients face serious barriers to employment, such as physical and mental health problems, substance abuse, and limited work and educational backgrounds.
This report presents final results from an evaluation of two different welfare-to-work strategies for hard-to-employ recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Philadelphia. The study is part of the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, which is testing innovative employment strategies for groups facing serious obstacles to finding and keeping a steady job. The project is sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. It is being conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, along with the Urban Institute and other partners.
The first approach being tested is a transitional jobs model that was operated by the Transitional Work Corporation (TWC). TWC quickly placed recipients who were referred by the welfare agency into temporary, subsidized jobs; provided work-related supports; and then, building on this work experience, helped participants look for permanent jobs. The second model, called “Success Through Employment Preparation” (STEP), aimed to assess and address participants’ barriers to employment — such as health problems or inadequate skills — before they went to work.