Getting a job is only part of the challenge. How do you help welfare
recipients and other disadvantaged workers keep their jobs once
they have them?
The factors that lead to job loss can be both worker- and job-related.
These factors include:
Difficulty making ends meet. The jobs that welfare recipients
and other disadvantaged workers obtain generally pay low wages
and rarely offer medical coverage or other benefits. At the same
time, new workers face reductions in welfare, food stamps, and
other benefits, and gain work-related costs, such as child care
and clothing expenses.
Layoffs and temporary work. Many of the jobs that welfare
recipients and other disadvantaged workers can attain are temporary,
seasonal, or in areas where layoffs are common. Because they lack
seniority in jobs, these workers are the first let go when layoffs
Workplace problems. Many welfare recipients and other
disadvantaged job seekers have difficulty adjusting to the workplace.
Problems may include:
- Conflicts with supervisors
Personal and family problems. Any number of personal problems
can lead to job loss, particularly if they are recurring. These
- Breakdowns in child care arrangements
- Breakdowns in transportation arrangements
- Domestic violence
Lack of social support. Family and friends often have
little work experience or other resources to share. Some may actively
discourage individuals from working.
Lack of clear goals. Without clear employment goals, workers
may simply walk off the job when conflicts arise, rather than
dealing constructively with the problem.
A variety of services - and potential service providers - are available
to help increase job retention. Program staff should identify, strengthen,
and coordinate services through business partnerships with public
programs, community organizations, and employers themselves.
Welfare recipients who go to work are generally eligible for transitional
childcare assistance, and other subsidies may be available after
it runs out. Business partnerships can facilitate childcare assistance
by publicizing available benefits and streamlining application
and payment processes. Employers can:
- provide childcare on-site;
- partner with nearby businesses; or
- help new workers identify childcare located near the work
For example, Colorado's Bright Beginnings program provides employers
with information on resources that can help parents balance work
and family responsibilities.
Further, the Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and Omni hotels in Atlanta
joined with community foundations and the Georgia Childcare Council
to create the Atlanta's Inn for Children, a 24-hour child care
center for employees of the hospitality industry.
Transitional Medicaid benefits are also available to parents
who leave welfare for work. Unfortunately, many of those who are
eligible for these benefits do not make use of them. You can help
- providing information to participants about these services
both when they enter the initiative and before they begin a
- publicizing the availability of medical coverage; and
- facilitating access to benefits.
Some states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, have expanded
health care programs for low-income populations to address the
lack of medical benefits in most entry-level positions.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, also known
as CHIP), created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, enacted
Title XXI of the Social Security Act and allocated about $20 billion
over five years to help states insure more children. SCHIP plans
have been approved in all 50 states and in at least five territories.
States are required to match the federal funds, but at a lower
rate than Medicaid. SCHIP varies by state and may include an expansion
of Medicaid, a separate program, or a hybrid of both. For information
about your state's program, see The Children's
Defense Web site.
Financial assistance. When people first start working, they often
face new expenses for items such as:
- work clothes;
- transportation costs; or
- fees for driver's licenses.
These added costs make the transition to employment difficult
and can jeopardize job retention. In response, many public agencies
offer one-time financial assistance to cover work-related costs.
Such assistance might include grants or no-interest loans to help
meet the transitional expenses of getting and staying employed.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can increase the financial
stability of low-wage workers. Those who qualify for the EITC
and file a federal tax return can:
- get back some or all of the federal income tax that was taken
out of their pay during the year;
- receive additional cash back if the credit exceeds their tax
- use the advance payment option if they are raising children,
so that they can receive part of their EITC in their paychecks
throughout the year.
In addition, many states offer their own EITCs. Employers can
help facilitate receipt of these tax benefits by publicizing their
availability and making any payroll changes needed to process
the advance payment option. Employment programs can help by making
employers aware of the EITC and offering to assist workers and
employers in completing the appropriate forms.
Follow-up can identify issues before they result in job loss.
Program staff can contact both the employer and the employee by
telephone or by visiting the work site. Program staff should also
be accessible so that either party can contact them when issues
Post-placement follow-up is labor-intensive and requires developing
a close relationship with employers. It is easier in situations
in which program staff have already formed working relationships
with supervisors through job development or other activities -
and more difficult when placements have occurred through more
formal hiring structures or larger job-listing networks.
To identify potential problems, ask questions about both work
and other issues that may affect placement success such as:
- ability to perform work;
- satisfaction with type of work;
- problems with work hours;
- family or personal problems;
- financial issues;
- child care arrangements;
- conflict with boss or coworkers;
- attendance and punctuality;
- access to transportation; and
- health and disability issues.
Mentoring can provide personal support to new employees at low
cost and little staff time. The mentors can come from a variety
- Washington Works pairs participants with successful program
- In Milwaukee, Ameritech, in partnership with the Milwaukee
Area Technical College, pairs employees and retirees with welfare
recipients entering the workforce.
Some companies use a buddy system to pair new workers with current
ones who provide advice and support and help acquaint the new
workers with office protocol. Providing training and guidelines
to mentors ahead of time can increase their effectiveness.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
EAPs assist employees with a variety of problems that are not
directly related to their jobs but that may threaten their productivity
and continued employment, such as childcare, financial planning,
or landlord disputes.
For example, the Marriott Corporation's Associate Resource Line
is available to the company's 180,000 hourly employees. Marriott
established the resource line after learning that managers spent
between 15 and 50 percent of their time on "social work"
activities and assisting their staff with personal problems. The
24-hour hotline is staffed by social workers who provide assistance
on anything impacting employees' work. The hotline is easily accessible
through an 800 number and is free and confidential.
EAPs are primarily used by large companies that have the capacity
to purchase their own hotlines. Smaller companies can provide
similar services by joining with others or contracting with a
local community agency.
Denver Workforce Initiative is creating its own EAP as
part of its package of services. Businesses without an
existing EAP who hire workers through the initiative would
be able to offer access to the hotline to their employees.
One of the most important elements in determining employment success
and satisfaction is the relationship between a worker and his
or her immediate supervisor. Unfortunately, supervisors of entry-level
workers often have little training in supervisory skills.
Kansas City's Local Investment Commission developed a training
seminar available to employers who hire through their program.
The training includes strategies for managing a diverse workforce,
understanding the perspective of former welfare recipients, and
establishing support systems. Employers also receive a resource
list to help them address issues that may arise.