Between July 1994 and December 1996, evaluators randomly assigned applicants for welfare cash assistance in Vermont to one of three groups: the WRP group (60 percent), the WRP Incentives Only group (20 percent), or the Aid to Needy Families with Children (ANFC) group (20 percent). Those already receiving welfare payments during that period were also eligible for the program and were randomly assigned into one of the three conditions at their semiannual eligibility review. Nearly all households applying for or already receiving cash assistance were eligible for random assignment; after 30 months, staff determined that some clients were exempt from the WRP work requirement. Some analyses were conducted using a full statewide sample, whereas others focused on individuals in 6 of Vermont's 12 districts (termed the research districts). This review only considers the comparison of the WRP group to the ANFC group for single-parent households. Other reviews on this site examine the WRP Incentives Only group or the experiences of other types of households.
Applicants were randomly assigned between July 1994 and December 1996 and were followed for six years after random assignment.
The state of Vermont, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Ford Foundation funded the evaluation of the program.
For the six research districts and single-parent sample members only (full state data were not reported), 40 percent of the overall sample was never married, and 93 percent was female. Fifty-three percent of the overall sample had no earnings for the 12 months before random assignment. Thirty-seven percent of the overall sample had a child younger than 3.
Vermont state ANFC (state Aid to Families with Dependent Children agency)
The program began under a waiver from federal welfare laws before passage of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The Vermont state legislature approved the program in January 1994, and the program and the study both began in July 1994.
The WRP required most single parents to work in a wage-paying job after they had received cash assistance for 30 cumulative months. (Parents of children younger than age 13 were required to work only half time.) Before reaching the 30-month time limit, parents prepared for and attempted to obtain unsubsidized employment. Five months before reaching the time limit, parents who were not already participating in Reach Up (Vermont's voluntary welfare-to-work program) were assigned to a case manager. The case manager assessed their work readiness, prepared an employment plan, and encouraged them to enroll in education or training. Parents who remained unemployed 2 months before the 30-month time limit were required to participate in job search activities that included job search classes (one or two per week) and meetings with a case manager. If, after those 2 months, parents did not secure a job, they were placed in subsidized, minimum-wage Community Service Employment but could engage in education or training activities at any time by enrolling in the full Reach Up program. The program also included incentives to encourage and reward work, such as offering up to three years of Medicaid coverage and transitional child care assistance for parents who transitioned from welfare to work, and enhancing the amount of earnings disregarded when determining the welfare benefit level. If a parent did not adhere to 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 per month at the welfare office. Parents had to meet these new requirements for the state to restore their cash assistance.
The comparison group, referred to as the ANFC group, could receive cash assistance and did not face a work requirement or financial incentives to work.
Participants were mandated to complete a work requirement. If they failed to comply, the state of Vermont would take control of their cash assistance, and participants would be required to attend three meetings per month. Participants would lose their benefits if they failed to attend the meetings.
There was no limit on participants' receipt of cash assistance. Those in the WRP group were required to work after receiving cash assistance for 30 months. Those who did not meet the work requirement could still receive cash assistance, but the state took control of the grant to pay participants' bills.
Vermont Department of Social Welfare (later called the Department of Prevention, Assistance, Transition, and Health Access)
The study took place in all 12 districts of Vermont. The study primarily focused on 6 districts, known as the research sample: Burlington, Barre, Newport, Rutland, St. Albans, and Springfield. These districts vary from Vermont's largest city to more rural settings. The Department of Social Welfare administered the overall program, and the Department of Employment and Training administered the Reach Up program and organized the Community Service Employment positions.