Twenty-Seven States Win Awards For Welfare Successes
By Stateline Staff
Twenty-seven states will share $200 million in performance bonuses from the federal government for successfully moving welfare recipients into work. President Clinton announced the awards Saturday. Minnesota showed the best performance, ranking in the top ten in three out of four categories.
Awards vary from $503,393 for South Dakota to $45.4 million for California. The final amount is tied to each state's yearly grant under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Congress established the awards in the 1996 welfare law.
When announcing the bonuses in his weekly radio address, Clinton also reported that the number of people on welfare has continued to fall. As of June 1999, 6.9 million Americans collected cash assistance under the TANF program, a drop of more than 700,000 in six months.
The states competed in four categories: how many adults they placed in jobs; whether those people kept their jobs and increased their paychecks; the biggest improvements in placing people in jobs between 1997 and 1998; and the biggest improvements in job retention and earnings.
The states submitted data to HHS, which chose the top ten states in each category.
Indiana won for placing the highest percentage of recipients into jobs. Minnesota helped the largest percentage of welfare recipients or former welfare recipients keep their jobs and increase their earnings.
Washington showed the biggest increase in 1998 in welfare recipients who found work. And, Florida won for showing the greatest improvement in 1998 in helping recipients keep jobs and increase their earnings.
States could win in more than one category. Minnesota was the only state to win in three. It ranked among the top ten in categories two and three, improvement in moving welfare recipients into jobs and improvement in helping them succeed at work.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia competed, although every state did not compete in every category. Five states did not enter at all: Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico and Virginia.
Noticeably absent from the winners was Wisconsin. It entered in all four categories and is considered on the cutting edge of welfare reform.
"Their success was early on. They were certainly on the leading edge on welfare early on," said Michael Kharfen, spokesman for HHS. "They did a lot of work in 1997 in getting people into work."
"It is a reflection of where they are in terms of their program," he said. Wisconsin is now working with more recipients who face barriers to success at work, Kharfen said.
In the law, Congress left it up to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine the parameters of the competition. It chose to emphasize work placement, retention and earnings.
"Full success requires not only getting recipients into jobs, but also keeping them in jobs and increasing earnings in order to reduce dependency and enable families to support themselves," the Department wrote in its guidelines.
Next year, however, HHS is expanding the competition. States will be able to compete against each other in promoting marriage and assuring eligible families receive Medicaid and food stamps.