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 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 to 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; thirty months after the study began, staff determined that some clients were exempt from the WRP work requirement. This review considers only the comparison of the WRP Incentives Only group with the ANFC group for single-parent households. Other reviews on this site examine the WRP group or examine the experiences of other types of households.
Applicants were randomly assigned between July 1994 and December 1996 and were followed for 24 quarters (6 years).
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, about 40 percent of the overall sample was never married, and 93 percent was female. Roughly 53 percent of the overall sample had no earnings for the 12 months before random assignment. About 37 percent of the overall sample had a child younger than 3.
Vermont state Aid to Needy Families with Children (ANFC, the 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 legislature approved the program in January 1994, and the program and the study both began in July 1994.
The WRP provided financial incentives for work by enhancing the amount of earnings disregarded when determining benefits and by providing supportive services to individuals who successfully transitioned from welfare to work. For instance, the first $150 earned and 25 percent of earnings thereafter were disregarded; vehicles of any value were not counted among assets; and people who transitioned from welfare to work could receive three years of Medicaid coverage and transitional child care assistance. During the program, case managers helped clients develop and pursue an employment plan.
The comparison group, referred to as the ANFC group, received less generous financial incentives through more limited earnings disregarded and less generous supportive services. For example, the first $120 in earnings and 33 percent of earnings were disregarded for the first four months of employment; then, the disregard of earnings decreased during the first year of employment and was limited to the first $90 after the first year of employment. Only up to $1,500 of a vehicle's value could be excluded from total assets. Individuals who successfully transitioned from welfare to work received only one year of transitional Medicaid.
There was no limit on participants' receipt of cash assistance.
The program was implemented and 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 primarily focuses on 6 districts of Vermont, known as the research sample: Burlington, Barre, Rutland, St. Albans, Newport, and Springfield. These districts vary from Vermont's largest city to more rural settings. Overall administration of the program took place in the offices of the Department of Social Welfare, and the Department of Employment and Training administered the Reach Up program and organized the community service employment positions.