In 1996 Congress passed and enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was further enacted to ensure the regular provision of financial aid to welfare recipients and facilitate their transition back into the workforce. Nevertheless, many social problems continue to persist.
The goal of this paper is to propose a community program that will place welfare recipients in Little Rock, Arkansas back into the workforce. The proposal evaluates the current state of employment and welfare policies in Little Rock, Arkansas and justifies the feasibility of the proposed study. Barriers affecting welfare recipients’ transition to the workforce are evaluated.
Key benefits of welfare-to-work programs are discussed. The main goals of the proposed initiative are listed. The central goal of the proposed welfare-to-work initiative is to ensure that by 2013 at least 20% of welfare recipients in Little Rock, Arkansas have permanent employment. The proposal further lists the principal elements of program implementation.
In 1996 Congress passed and enacted the Personal Responsibility, and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which became a new stage in the evolution of welfare systems and principles in the U.S. Previously enacted welfare laws were eliminated.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created to ensure the regular provision of financial aid to welfare recipients and facilitate their transition back into the workforce (Pavetti et al., 2001). The goal of this paper is to propose and justify the feasibility of a community program that will place welfare recipients in Little Rock, Arkansas back into the workforce.
The paper will evaluate the need for implementing a new welfare-to-work (WTW) program in Little Rock, Arkansas, state program goals, and propose ways and instruments to achieve these goals.
Developing a Welfare-to-Work Program in Little Rock
Little Rock is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. State of Arkansas, with a population of 193,524 (United States Census, 2010). It has a total area of 116.8 sq. Miles (United States Census, 2010). Little Rock primarily houses The University of Arkansas for Medical Science and its subsidiaries – Arkansas Children Hospital and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare, providing employment opportunities to over 10,000 employees with a total fiscal impact of around $5 billion yearly (United States Census, 2010).
The overall budget of Arkansas for Financial Year 2011 covers $20.9 billion in expenses (U.S. Government Spending, 2011). Of these, $1.2 billion are welfare expenditures (U.S. Government Spending, 2011). Welfare is not the most serious item of the state budget in Arkansas, but the amount of welfare expenditures in the state constantly increases.
The U.S. Government Spending (2011) forecasts that by 2013 welfare expenditures in Arkansas will achieve an unprecedented $118.05 billion. The costs of welfare and the growing weight of welfare expenditures in the state budget justify the implementation of a welfare-to-work program in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The need for a broad welfare-to-work program in Little Rock, Arkansas is justified by the challenges and barriers faced by welfare recipients in their way to employment. Welfare recipients cannot overcome these barriers without external support. According to Olson and Pavetti (1996), the major family and personal challenges affecting welfare recipients’ transition to work include
- physical disabilities;
- children health and behavioral problems;
- mental health problems;
- domestic violence;
- substance abuse;
- child welfare system involvement;
- housing problems;
- and insufficient levels of knowledge and skills.
Statistically, almost 90 percent of all welfare recipients aged 27-35 experience at least one barrier to employment (Olson & Pavetti, 1996). Approximately every second welfare recipient suffers health difficulties and complications; low basic skills exemplify the most common problem affecting welfare recipients’ employment intentions (Olson & Pavetti, 1996).
These difficulties are so prevalent that only a broad welfare-to-work program can reduce the scope of unemployment in Arkansas and, simultaneously, minimize and optimize welfare expenditures. Welfare-to-work programs have proved to be of extreme material and non-material value for welfare recipients.
WTW programs increase maternal employment, contribute to families’ financial wellbeing, and improve their self-sufficiency (Parcel & Menaghan, 1997). In 1997 alone, WTW programs led to a considerable increase in minimum wages, from $4.25 to $5.15 (Danziger et al., 2002). States that developed and implemented WTW programs were able to increase their child care and health care spending (Danziger et al., 2002).
Bevill and Dale (2007) tested the efficacy of a brief welfare-to-work program for students at Arkansas State University and found that, as a result of the program, almost a hundred of students were able to find rewarding work and career opportunities; their wage sometimes achieved an unbelievable $18.23 per hour, compared to an average of $9.98 in the state of Arkansas.
To sum up, the implementation of the program is justified by (a) the need to reduce welfare expenditures in Arkansas; (b) facilitate welfare recipients’ transition to the workforce; and (c) contribute to their material wellbeing.
The main goal of the program is to reduce the number of welfare recipients in Little Rock, Arkansas by 20% in 2013. The subgoals include:
- By the end of 2013 at least 20% of welfare recipients aged 25-35 in Little Rock, Arkansas will find permanent employment;
- Permanent employment implies that welfare recipients have spent at least six months working in one place, without any problems or complaints from the employer.
How the Program Is Implemented
The program is implemented with the help of an intermediary organization. The organization is created based on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The latter was first organized in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978 with the goal of managing and organizing low-wage workers in the industries that were not subject to union influences (Kelleher, 1986).
The intermediary organization is created specifically to meet the goals of the proposed welfare-to-work program. The intermediary organization meets the two main criteria: (1) provides services to link welfare recipients to available job opportunities; and (2) develops and sustains formal relationships with the welfare office and related administrative entities, to achieve better inter-agency cooperation and ensure continuous provision of quality job training, transition assistance, and support (Pavetti et al., 2001; Reese & Harding, 2007).
The intermediary agency is funded cooperatively, with TANF and ACORN. The program does not target all welfare recipients but focuses on hard-to-employ candidates (Pavetti et al., 2001). These are handicapped individuals, single mothers and fathers, and candidates with no previous work experience.
The program is implemented with the continuous support of the local Department of Labor and welfare departments in Little Rock, Arkansas. The agency assumes a responsibility to manage and coordinate all program activities. These activities include:
- Establishing quotas for all organizations to permanently employ a certain proportion of handicapped workers;
- Establishing zero-tolerance policies against drug use and abuse by welfare recipients;
- Providing regular job training and re-education;
- Offering government incentives to employers who choose to employ welfare recipients;
- Organizing conferences, seminars, and workshops to prepare welfare recipients for job interviews;
- Teaching future employees to make sense of their scarce incomes (Bevill & Dale, 2007);
- Providing child care and support to newly employed single parents and families (Leonard, 1998);
- Determining location quotients to measure the success of the program and monitoring their progress;
- Conducting regular community audits to identify workforce and employment needs of Little Rock communities (Working for America Institute, 2011).
The intermediary agency is responsible for financial and other material resource allocation. One of the primary agency’s responsibilities is to ensure goal congruency across all agencies involved in the program. The agency is responsible for and enhances the quality of inter-agency communication, through data and knowledge sharing (Reese & Harding, 2007).
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