Technical Assistance Initiative - Welfare to Work Vouchers
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
(Presented by Kathryn Greenspan, U.S. Department of Housing and
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
The Role WtW PHAs Can Play in Helping WtW Families Achieve
- 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
- 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
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.