The WRP created a work requirement and provided financial incentives to work for single parents and two-parent families with a disabled or unemployed parent receiving cash assistance. This evaluation directly compared WRP with a separate intervention, WRP Incentives Only, to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive feature of WRP was the work requirement.
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 had 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 in 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 to 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 participants 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 effectiveness of WRP when compared with WRP Incentives Only indicates the effect of the services that are unique to WRP or how much better WRP meets participants’ needs than WRP Incentives Only. WRP Incentives Only participants were eligible for all the financial incentives to encourage and reward work implemented under WRP. Although WRP placed work requirements on participants after 15 or 30 months, no WRP Incentives Only participants faced work requirements. The evaluation comparing WRP with WRP Incentives Only also tested the effectiveness of WRP and WRP Incentives Only compared with usual services.