• 0.00,4.00
  • 0.04,1.00
  • 0.04,4.00
  • 0.02,4.00

Texas ERA provided financial support and case management to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants and recipients with a goal of helping them find and maintain employment and advance into better jobs.

Texas ERA provided financial support and case management to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants and recipients with a goal of helping them find and maintain employment and advance into better jobs.

Texas ERA began with an orientation followed by a four-day job-search workshop. After the workshop, participants spent four to six weeks searching for jobs. Those that did not find employment during this time were assigned to community service or volunteer positions. Participants who did find jobs became eligible for a $200 monthly stipend, as long as they were employed for at least 30 hours per week, participated in a post-employment advancement activity, or left TANF. Participants could also receive the stipend if they worked 15 hours per week while participating in an education and training activity.

The program disregarded the first four months of participants’ earnings when calculating their eligibility for TANF. Texas ERA staff provided case management services, which included an employment assessment, goal setting and career planning, supportive services, barrier resolution, and job search assistance. Preemployment services were available for up to 7 weeks, and financial incentives for job retention were available for up to 12 months.

TANF applicants and recipients were eligible to participate. Participants remained eligible for the Texas ERA project as long as they were eligible for the monthly stipend.

The Texas ERA project was implemented in three communities in Texas: Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, and Houston. The evaluation of the Texas ERA program also studied ERA programs implemented in Illinois; Riverside, CA; and South Carolina.

Year evaluation began: 2000
Populations and employment barriers: Parents
Intervention services: Case management, Employment retention services, Financial incentives
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Supported favorable $858 per year 0.041 5331
Long-term Supported favorable $920 per year 0.044 5565
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Not supported favorable 0% (in percentage points) 0.007 5331
Long-term Supported favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.024 5565
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Not supported unfavorable $55 per year 0.020 5331
Long-term Mixed support $0 per year 0.000 5331
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods No evidence to assess support

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
45%
White, not Hispanic
17%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
37%
Another race
2%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The program lasted four years, from 2000 to 2004. Evaluators enrolled participants between October 2000 and December 2002. The study followed them for four years after enrollment.

Organizations implementing intervention

Nonprofit employment services organizations under contract with the local workforce boards provided services at all three sites. In Fort Worth, a women’s advocacy organization also provided some services, including post-employment services; in September 2003, most ERA responsibilities were shifted to the women’s advocacy organization.

Populations served

Texas ERA served families with children who were eligible for TANF, focusing on new applicants and existing recipients who were unemployed. The majority of participants were female (about 95 percent), and about half did not have a high school diploma or GED. Participants were 28 to 29 years old on average and had, on average, two children younger than 18. The majority of participants were Hispanic in Corpus Christi (74 percent) and Black, not Hispanic, in Fort Worth (67 percent) and Houston (62 percent). Participation was mandatory while individuals received TANF.

Description of services implemented

Texas ERA began with an orientation and a four-day job-search workshop. After the workshop, participants spent four to six weeks searching for jobs. Those who did not find employment during this time were assigned to community service or volunteer positions. Texas ERA offered three types of services to help participants obtain jobs and increase employment retention:

  • Case management. Texas ERA staff provided case management services, which included an employment assessment, goal setting and career planning, supportive services, barrier resolution, and job search assistance.

  • Financial incentives. Texas ERA participants who found jobs became eligible for a $200 monthly stipend, as long as they were employed for at least 30 hours per week, participated in a post-employment advancement activity, or left TANF. Participants could also receive the stipend if they worked 15 hours per week while participating in an education and training activity. The program disregarded the first four months of participants’ earnings when calculating their eligibility for TANF.

  • Employment retention services. Texas ERA staff offered post-employment services to help with job-related problems and supportive services, including regular employer site visits to monitor job performance, rapid reemployment assistance, and support to ensure that participants met the requirements to receive their monthly stipends.

The orientation and assessment process required high staff involvement in Fort Worth and Houston because of individual orientation sessions (in Houston) and a strong focus on assessment (in Fort Worth and Houston), which caused delays in moving participants forward and led to high caseloads.

Service intensity

Preemployment services were available for up to 7 weeks, and financial incentives for job retention were available for up to 12 (not necessarily consecutive) months. In the first 12 months, about 30 percent of participants in Corpus Christi received financial incentives, compared with about 20 percent of participants in Fort Worth and Houston.

Comparison conditions

TANF recipients assigned to Texas’s standard welfare-to-work program (called Choices) received many of the same services that Texas ERA participants did, including job search assistance, case management services, and supportive services after attending an orientation session. They spent four to six weeks searching for jobs, after which those who did not find employment were assigned to community service or volunteer positions. However, Choices participants did not receive stipends or the same level of case management or employment retention services as Texas ERA participants. Choices clients could have four months of earnings disregarded when calculating their TANF benefit amount and could receive post-employment services during those four months. Case management services included employment assessment, goal setting and career planning, supportive services, barrier resolution, and job search assistance, but the services were not as intensive or coordinated across agencies as they were in the Texas ERA program.

Partnerships

The state TANF agency and the Texas Workforce Commission developed the ERA program. Case managers helped coordinate services with other agencies, such as the state TANF agency and state education agencies.

Staffing

Texas ERA employed up to three sets of staff, including case managers and other staff focused on (1) preemployment services; (2) job search and placement services, along with job development services in Corpus Christi and Fort Worth; and (3) post-employment services, including retention and advancement for participants who left TANF and received monthly stipends. Houston began with case managers who remained working with individuals throughout their time in the program but in 2002, shifted to a specialized case management approach splitting up preemployment and post-employment services as the other sites did. Corpus Christi had up to 12 program staff, whereas the other sites had 6 to 8 staff members.

Texas ERA staff in all sites received annual training from the state’s Department of Human Services related to marketing financial incentives, developing career ladders, and promoting job retention and advancement. The study authors did not include information on the degrees or certifications of staff.

Local context

The Texas ERA project was implemented in three communities in Texas: Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, and Houston. Houston is the fourth-most populated city in the country and had slightly higher unemployment in 2003 than Corpus Christi and Fort Worth. All three cities were affected by the 2001 recession.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Program services were funded by the state TANF program, and the stipend was funded through federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) sanction resettlement funds (that is, grant funds that were rescinded from states that did not meet certain AFDC performance criteria and distributed to other states for program improvement). The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in ACF at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the study, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cost information

The average cost per participant was $4,236 in Corpus Christi and $3,961 in Fort Worth (2008 dollars), including ERA services, education and training services that were incurred by state education agencies, and monthly stipends. Compared with the Choices group, the average cost per participant was $2,406 higher in Corpus Christi and $2,000 higher in Fort Worth. A cost-benefit analysis indicated that program group benefits exceeded government costs by $2,362 per participant in Corpus Christi and by $738 per participant in Fort Worth. Government costs per participant were $1,041 in Corpus Christi and $2,376 in Fort Worth. Program group benefits were calculated as the sum of participants’ earnings, fringe benefits, post-employment stipends, and tax credits minus the sum of their tax payments and reductions in public benefit. Government costs were calculated as the sum of tax credits and program costs—post-employment stipends and employment and training costs—minus increases in tax revenue and reduction in public benefits and public assistance administration. The study did not examine costs for Houston because it did not have any statistically significant effects on participants’ employment and earnings during the follow-up period.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 4