Work Plus allowed newly employed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to partially reduce work requirements in order to pursue education and training concurrent with 20 hours of work per week. This evaluation directly compared Work Plus to a separate intervention, the Training Focused Program, to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive feature of Work Plus is the emphasis on combining employment with education and training.
Program staff encouraged Work Plus participants to pursue education and training activities in addition to a required 20 hours of work per week, with the philosophy that working reinforced the value of education and training and that working while in school or training increased the likelihood of program completion and the use of newly attained skills. Participation in education and training was voluntary, but if participants chose not to pursue education and training, they were required to participate in other permitted activities—including work—for at least 32 hours per week. Participants received intensive case management services, including access and referrals to mental health, domestic violence, and substance use treatment services. Participants were also automatically eligible for supportive services, including child care and transportation assistance, which would otherwise have required enrolling in a separate program.
Services continued as long as participants remained employed. If a participant became unemployed, they could continue Work Plus services for up to 60 days before being transferred to a separate, job-search services program.
The program was available to TANF recipients who had worked at the state minimum wage or higher for at least 20 hours in one or more weeks in the prior month. Participants also had to have completed a preemployment program and expect to be working at least 20 hours per week on average for the next month. Work Plus was implemented in Riverside County, CA.
The effectiveness of Work Plus when compared with the Training Focused Program indicates the effect of being referred to a set of services that includes those unique to Work Plus or how much better the offer of Work Plus meets participants’ needs than the offer of the Training Focused Program. The Training Focused Program also provided intensive case management and enhanced supportive services to the same population. Unlike in Work Plus—which required participants to work 20 hours per week—Training Focused Program participants could reduce or eliminate work hours as long as they participated in other permitted activities—including education and training—for at least 32 hours per week. The evaluation of Work Plus as compared with the Training Focused Program also tested the effectiveness of Work Plus and the Training Focused Program as compared with usual services.