Now more than ever, the path to self-sufficiency for most welfare recipients involves finding and keeping a job. The recently enacted welfare law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, emphasizes the need for individuals to take personal responsibility in their move toward self-sufficiency. The law underscores the importance of work and requires most able-bodied individuals to find some type of work within two years after they start collecting welfare.
For welfare recipients, the time limits that the new law imposes significantly raise the stakes of not being employed. As the new law is implemented, more individuals who are less job ready will be entering the labor market. Many of these individuals, unused to the world of work, will be in danger of losing their jobs. While time limits may motivate some to hold onto their jobs, many are likely to face situations that make it hard for them to do so. Although welfare recipients must try to deal with these challenges, external assistance and support can help them overcome some of these barriers. States and other local agencies may be able to provide support that makes individuals’ transition from welfare to work smoother and more successful.