The WRP created a work requirement for single parents and for two-parent families with a disabled or unemployed parent receiving cash assistance. It also provided financial incentives to work with a goal of encouraging employment and reducing reliance on welfare.
The WRP 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. The WRP placed work requirements on parents after 15 months (for two-parent families with an unemployed parent) or 30 months (for single-parent families and two-parent families with a disabled parent) of receiving cash assistance. Immediately upon enrolling in WRP, two-parent families with an unemployed parent were enrolled in Reach Up (the state’s voluntary welfare-to-work program), through which they received case management and work-readiness assessments. The WRP placed these participants in subsidized minimum-wage community service employment if they were unemployed after receiving cash assistance for 15 months. If single-parents and two-parent families with a disabled parent did not obtain unsubsidized employment on their own within 25 months of receiving cash assistance, the primary earner parent was required to participate in Reach Up. If they were still not working after 27 months on cash assistance, these parents were required to participate in job search activities, and if they remained unemployed after receiving cash assistance for 30 months, they were placed in subsidized employment. All WRP participants could opt out of subsidized employment to participate education or training activities with Reach Up.
The WRP also provided financial incentives to work. First, WRP changed several welfare rules seen as discouraging work including allowing participants to earn more, own a more valuable car, and accumulate more savings without losing eligibility for assistance. All participants were subject to these rule changes upon entry into WRP. Next, families who transitioned from welfare for work were eligible for expanded supports including Medicaid coverage for up to three years and transitional child care assistance for as long as a family’s income did not exceed 80 percent of the state median.
If a participant did not comply with the work requirement, the state used the parent’s cash assistance grant to pay the household’s bills and required the parent to attend three meetings a month at the welfare office. The WRP did not place a time limit on receipt of cash assistance.. Cash assistance applicants and current recipients were eligible for the WRP. The program was implemented in six regions in Vermont. The evaluation of the WRP also tested the effectiveness of a variation of the WRP that included work incentives but no work requirement, as well as a comparison of the WRP and the incentives-only variation.