Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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December 2015
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) Board of Directors authorized WSIPP to work on a joint project with the MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts to extend WSIPP's benefit-cost analysis to workforce development programs.

This report reviews the evidence on workforce programs in three broad program categories: 1) job training and work experience, 2) job search and placement assistance, and 3) case management.
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February 2011
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal/state program providing cash assistance to families with children. In Washington, the TANF program is administered by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The 2007 Legislature directed the Institute to study the prevalence of depression among women receiving TANF and to evaluate the effectiveness of current screening methods used by the DSHS.

A random sample of 707 women receiving TANF in February 2008 was interviewed by telephone using a well-validated survey instrument to diagnose major depressive disorder (MDD). Compared with a national sample of depressed women with children, we found that women receiving TANF were more likely to be depressed and their depression was twice as likely to be categorized as severe. Depressed TANF clients were also significantly more likely to receive professional treatment for their condition.

Compared with non-depressed TANF clients, those with MDD were employed less and received TANF longer in the nine-month follow-up period. Depression was not associated with TANF sanction, either at the time of sampling or during the follow-up period.

DSHS has implemented screening procedures that identify a substantial portion of depressed TANF clients. To the extent the state wishes to increase treatment rates, DSHS could modify its Comprehensive Evaluation to include one of several brief, freely available mental health screening instruments.
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May 2010
General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) is a Washington State-funded program that provides cash grants and medical benefits to adults who have temporary incapacities that prevent them from working. The GA-U caseload has increased from about 10,000 individuals in 1998 to over 16,000 in 2009. As of April 2009, the caseload was forecast to continue growing to over 20,000 people by 2013. Since about 2003, the GA-U caseload has risen faster than the state population and appears to correlate with growth in the number of adults in poverty and without health insurance.

In 2010, the GA-U was renamed the “Disability Lifeline Program.” The Disability Lifeline Program is similar to GA-U in most eligibility rules and benefits, except that the Disability Lifeline Program has a time limit during which individuals can receive benefits (up to 24 months within a five-year period). In the 2010 legislation that created the Disability Lifeline Program, the Institute was directed to “analyze the experiences of persons who have been terminated from disability lifeline benefits” due to time limits or other reasons. The Institute will track the number of former benefit recipients who transitioned to SSI benefits or became employed, in addition to other outcomes. This report is due in December, 2012.
Download: Full Report
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December 2009
The 2009 Legislature directed the Institute to review state general assistance programs and to identify “promising approaches that both improve client outcomes and reduce state costs.” General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) is a state-funded program that provides cash and medical assistance to adults with temporary incapacities (for example, an illness) that prevent them from working. Nineteen states (including Washington) operate GA-U programs. Research evidence suggests that client and taxpayer finance outcomes can be improved by providing treatment services to individuals diagnosed with mental illness or substance abuse disorders. These services are appropriate for many GA-U clients.
Download: Full Report
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November 2005
Community Jobs is a Washington State WorkFirst program that places Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients into subsidized minimum wage jobs for up to six months. Community-based and tribal contractors provide intensive case management and seek to place clients in unsubsidized jobs. This evaluation compares the outcomes of 2,500 clients enrolled in Community Jobs in 2002 with a similar group of TANF clients who did not participate in the program. Several measures of unsubsidized employment were examined four to eight quarters after enrollment. The study found that 66 percent of enrollees were employed at least once during the follow-up period compared with 58 percent of non-participants. In any given quarter, employment rates for enrollees were 14 to 24 percent higher than non-participants. Enrollees, particularly women without recent work experience, were more likely to be continuously employed. Community Jobs is most effective for enrollees without recent work experience and more effective, over the long term, for women than men. In general, outcomes associated with Community Jobs are comparable to those provided by other WorkFirst programs even though Community Jobs serves clients who are harder to employ.
Download: Full Report
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December 2004
WorkFirst, Washington State’s implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), began in April 1997. TANF is a major change in how the state assists low-income families. The program helps parents look for work and provides employment-specific training and basic education opportunities. A number of independent analyses have attempted to estimate employment, earnings, and other outcomes directly attributable to the overall program or to specific program activities, such as Job Search, Community Jobs, Customized Job Skills Training, and Post-Employment Services. This report summarizes the key findings of these analyses.
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November 2001
In the spring of 2001, the Washington State Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to recommend how Washington could consider adding a targeted, stand-alone higher education component to the WorkFirst program in a way that is cost-neutral and consistent with the WorkFirst philosophy. This report examines other states’ practices, federal TANF regulations, and research regarding welfare and higher education.
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June 2001
This study examines the impact of Post-employment services provided by the Washington State WorkFirst program. Post-employment services are intended to help employed WorkFirst clients stay employed and find better paying jobs. The analysis shows that clients who receive Post-employment services have higher rates of employment, earn more, and work more hours than similar clients who did not receive those services. The study also evaluates the impact of more intensive Post-employment services provided in the Spokane area and examines the costs associated with supporting employed clients.
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January 2001
This report looks at the three-year history of the state's welfare reform program, WorkFirst, and assesses some of the key issues facing welfare reform in the coming years.  One of the foremost issues is the 5-year time limit on welfare benefits, which will take effect in Washington State beginning August 2002.  Approximately 7,600 individuals on WorkFirst may reach the 5-year time limit between 2002 and 2003.  This study describes these high risk cases, outlines the factors that increase the likelihood of remaining on welfare, and follows program participation of long-term recipients.
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June 2000
This study examines three questions about the Washington State WorkFirst program: Is TANF cost-effective, are WorkFirst clients becoming harder to employ, and does participating in WorkFirst Job Search improve employment outcomes? The analyses support the following conclusions: 1) When compared with AFDC, the government spends more per TANF household. Under TANF, however, fewer clients use welfare, and overall welfare costs are less.  2) According to four specific factors that impact employment, clients on the caseload in February 2000 were no harder to employ than clients on the caseload when WorkFirst began in August 1997.  3) For those with no recent work experience, job search increases employment rates. Results for clients with a recent work history are mixed. WorkFirst replaced AFDC as the state’s welfare program in 1997.
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P O BOX 40999
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institute@wsipp.wa.gov