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Technical Assistance Initiative - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   HUD Update
 -   Work Strategies for WtW Participants
 -   NLFEO: Providing Employment Services to Voucher Recipients in Newark, NJ
 -   EITC Fact Sheet

Summary of the WtW Voucher Program Teleconference 9: Focus on Employment

On January 24, 2002 HUD hosted its ninth WtW voucher program national teleconference. The teleconference featured several presentations on employment-related topics. Over 200 HUD field offices and WtW PHA staff participated in the call. Stephan Yank, a WtW Specialist at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, moderated the call and was joined by the following panelists:

  • Kathryn Greenspan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provided a brief HUD Update;

  • Julie Strawn, Center for Law and Social Policy, presented work strategies for WtW participants;

  • Donnell Brown, Newark (NJ) Housing Authority, showcased Newark's Welfare to Work Employment Center; and

  • Donna Cohen Ross, Earned Income Tax Credit Campaign, discussed work incentives through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Following is a brief summary of the HUD Update and Work Strategies for WtW Participants presentations. View our Learning From Each Other Newark page for more information on Newark's Welfare to Work Employment Center and our EITC Fact Sheet for the latest on EITC policy and implementation strategies.

HUD Update

(Presented by Kathryn Greenspan, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
  • During this teleconference, HUD provided information on the reallocation process. Specifically, HUD said that it will maintain the original number of 50,000 vouchers for the WtW voucher program. For this reason, it is using a per unit annual budget authority amount. This is the average per unit annual budget authority amount for all of the units available for reallocation and announced by the invitation. This amount may not accurately reflect the costs of administering the WtW voucher program in a given PHA's geographic area. Through the funding renewal process, HUD will make any needed adjustments to bring budgeted amounts in-line with actual costs.

  • For more information, view the November 1, 2001 Federal Register notice [FR-4694-N-01], which covers information on the reallocation of baseline units and annual budget authority. See Section II of the Notice.

Work Strategies for WtW Participants

(Presented by Julie Strawn, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP))

Employment Programs for Low-Income Families: What Typically Works

  • The most successful employment programs provide a comprehensive package of services. They do not rely on one strategy but offer a mix of services such as job skills training, job readiness training, counseling services, work experience, and education programs.

  • Successful programs often have close connections to employers.

  • Programs need to be flexible and services need to be tailored to the individual.

  • While being flexible and specialized, employment programs must also have a clear employment focus, with clearly-defined expectations for participants.

  • Expectations for participants must be realistic while also ambitious.

  • Successful employment programs are designed to increase a participant's financial security. Wage-subsidy programs have a high success rate. One can argue that the WtW voucher has a similar effect because the housing subsidy increases the amount of disposable income a family has to spend on other necessities.

  • Job skills, job advancement, and the quality of the initial job can significantly affect success. A low-income individual that starts a job with a higher salary is more likely to stay in the workforce and steadily progress to a higher-paying job. Studies show a high rate of retention in clerical work and jobs in the healthcare field, while a high rate of turnover occurs in retail and sales positions.

  • Choosing the right employment strategy for an individual is critical. Successful employment programs identify and address barriers to self-sufficiency before an individual enters the workforce. Barriers to self-sufficiency that are not addressed prior to employment often result in job loss and may negatively affect the program's credibility with local employers.

What Works for the Harder-to-Employ

  • It is even more critical to identify and address barriers to self-sufficiency for the harder-to-employ. Both informal and formal assessment/screening processes are important in these cases.

  • It is important to reward small steps to success and be sensitive to persons who have been out of the workforce for a long time. Hard-to-employ individuals should be encouraged to take incremental steps to achieving full-time employment. For example, a mother could volunteer at her child's school ten hours a week, or participate in an internship program, gradually increasing the number of working hours.

  • Helping hard-to-employ individuals in achieving their employment goals is a long-term process that often involves "one step forward, two steps back." Patience, understanding, and a strong commitment to counseling the family over the long haul can help.

  • It is effective to focus on activities aimed at developing job skills. Explorin partnerships with local agencies that already provide specialized services to the hard-to-employ, i.e. job coaching, substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling can also be effective.

The Role WtW PHAs Can Play in Helping WtW Families Achieve Self-Sufficiency

  • PHAs cannot do this alone! Use the WtW voucher as leverage for getting local agences to provide employment services. By providing the WtW voucher to the clients of partner agencies, the PHA is helping the agency achieve its mission. In return, the partner agency commits to providing services to the WtW voucher program participant.

  • Actively involve your FSS case manager. By integrating FSS and WtW, a PHA has a mechanism for referring families to services and monitoring these families to ensure they are receiving the services that they need.

  • Partnering with other local organizations that provide case management services is critical. Many community-based organizations, such as churches, provide these services.

About the Presenters

Julie Strawn is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She is also the co-author of "Steady Work and Better Jobs: How to Help Low-Income Parents Sustain Employment and Advance in the Workplace." This how-to guide is a publication of the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization dedicated to the well-being of low-income people. Visit MDRCs website to learn more about its ReWorking Welfare initiative.

Donna Cohen Ross is the Director of Outreach at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs, with an emphasis on those affecting low and moderate-income people. As the Center's Outreach Director, Ross oversees the Center's highly acclaimed Earned Income Tax Credit outreach campaign. Ross joined CBPP after twelve years as a child advocate in New Jersey. Ross' outreach efforts in New Jersey's EITC campaign were recognized as among the best in the country. As director of Invest in Children, a coalition of New Jersey's business leaders and child advocates working to improve health and education programs for young children, Ross spearheaded a statewide WIC Quality Enhancement project and co-founded the Early Childhood Facilities Fund.

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