Jobs First was a statewide welfare reform initiative in Connecticut that promoted work and attempted to encourage people to seek, obtain, and retain employment.
Jobs First was one of the demonstration projects made possible by Section 1115 waivers to the rules in effect at the time for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. These Section 1115 waivers allowed states to test new approaches to advance the objectives of the AFDC program.
Jobs First had three main features. First, participants could receive no more than 21 months of cash assistance. They could receive 6-month extensions if they attempted to find employment but their family income was still below the threshold. Second, Connecticut disregarded participants’ earned income below the poverty level when calculating cash grants and food stamps benefits to encourage and reward work. This meant that people could receive earnings from work and continue to receive cash assistance income. And with Jobs First, participants could have $3,000 of assets, compared with just $1,000 under AFDC in 1996. Finally, Jobs First participants were required to look for a job on their own or through training courses that taught job search and job maintenance skills.
If participants still could not find a job, Jobs First provided additional education and training services. People who did not search for a job, secure a job, or participate in education and training services were subject to sanctions. The first time they failed to meet requirements, participants’ payments were reduced by 20 percent for three months. Payments were reduced by 35 percent the second time participants didn’t meet requirements and cancelled after the third time.
Jobs First participants could receive a maximum of 21 months of services, unless they qualified for the extension. All applicants to and recipients of AFDC in Connecticut were eligible for Jobs First.