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), and the Aid for 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 two-parent households with an unemployed parent. Other reviews on this site examined 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 only, about 70 percent of the overall sample of families with two able-bodied parents was married and living with their spouse. About one quarter (28 percent) of the overall sample had no earnings for the 12 months before random assignment. More than half (58 percent) of the overall sample had a child younger than the age of 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 began in July 1994.
The WRP required that the primary earner in two-parent families with an unemployed parent immediately participate in Reach Up (Vermont's voluntary welfare-to-work program), and that the primary earner accept any employment offered. In Reach Up, a case manager assessed their work readiness, prepared an employment plan, and encouraged them to enroll in education or training. Parents were offered job search activities that included job search classes (one or two per week) and meetings with a case manager. After 15 months of receiving welfare payments, the principal earners had to have a full-time job; if they did not, the state placed those parents in subsidized, minimum-wage Community Service Employment, although participants 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. The state also waived some nonfinancial eligibility requirements for welfare for two-parent families. 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 a 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 have a parent working 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.
The program was funded by the 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 focused primarily 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 program, and the Department of Employment and Training administered the Reach Up program and organized the Community Service Employment positions.