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 the WRP, two-parent families with an unemployed parent were enrolled in Reach Up (Vermont’s voluntary welfare-to-work program), through which they received case management and participated in job search activities. The WRP placed these participants in subsidized minimum-wage community service employment (CSE) 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 28 months of receiving cash assistance, the primary earner parent was required to participate in job search activities. If that parent remained unemployed after receiving cash assistance for 30 months, he or she was placed in subsidized CSE.
The WRP also provided financial incentives to work. For example, the WRP allowed participants to earn more and have more of certain assets without losing eligibility for assistance. All participants were subject to these rule changes upon entry into the WRP. Families that transitioned from welfare for work were eligible for expanded support from Medicaid and transitional child care assistance.
If participants did not comply with the work requirement, the state limited their use of the cash assistance grant and required the parent to attend meetings 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. While the program was implemented in all 12 of Vermont's welfare districts, the study focused on 6 of these regions. 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.