Wisconsin welfare to work policy

Problem identification

Wisconsin is a state in America which is located at the upper Midwest region. The state was one of the pioneers in initiating the welfare to work initiative which aimed to reduce the expenditure used on support programs by supporting individuals to be independent. The Wisconsin welfare policy addresses the social and economic aspect concerning welfare allocation and work-related issues. By 1995 the population of Wisconsin was around 5.1 million. Since 1986 to 1995 the population of the state grew by 0.8 percent which was lower compared to overall country growth which was at 1 percent. In 1990 the population of Wisconsin constituted of 93 percent whites, 5.1 percent blacks and the rest for other groups. The larger population of blacks is situated at Milwaukee which is the largest city in Wisconsin. Between 1985 and 1990 the state experienced an increase in the in-migrants of poor individuals; these individuals formed the more significant part of the population who were dependent on welfare programs.  However, those concerned with welfare migration fail to identify it as the leading cause of caseload accumulation. In 1979 to 1983 the overall countrywide employment in the manufacturing sector declined by 12 percent while that of Wisconsin declined by 17 percent. However, there was an increase in employment level by 16 percent in Wisconsin between 1983 and 1989 while the other states were at a 6 percent increase. In 1995 the state experienced an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent while Milwaukee and its suburbs had 2.2 percent abd the central city was at 4.9 percent . in comparison the overall countrywide unemployment was at 5.8 percent. The condition of the economy in Wisconsin made it favorable for the establishment of welfare to work initiative.

In 1986 the work experience and job training (WEJT) program were enacted by the then governor Thompson. The initiative mainly targeted the recipients to achieve self-support to avoid the dependency on the welfare programs. The WEJT program was initiated to aid in the achievement of welfare to work program in the state by giving the role to the state welfare agency. The program aimed the recipients to gain self-support through being involved in job search, training, and community work. The state would then deliver case management and support services to the individuals through the welfare agency. WEJT participants who were involved in education and vocational training programs were reimbursed childcare and transport expenses. Due to the program welfare caseload in Wisconsin declined by 22.5 percent between 1986 and 1994. The main contributors to the condition were the restriction on the eligibility of those who qualified for welfare support, strong state economy and high allocation of funds to the welfare-to-work programs.

Policy analysis

The welfare program which has been known to be mostly depended on in the united states is the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) the program mainly supports single mothers and the needy children.  The AFDC dependence from the 1960s to 1994 was in the rise since it helped accumulatively 11 million people. However, the dependency level dropped by 44 percent after 1994. The main factors which led to the decline are the excellent economic conditions which resulted in the creation of numerous job opportunities for all individuals including those with low skills. The job creation led to reduction of low-income families which in turn led to a decline in the number of individuals depending on welfare programs. The implementation of the Family support act of 1988 led to the rise of Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training program(JOBS ) which contributed to more welfare adults to work or be prepared to work.  Another reform which followed was the change of AFDC to a block grant called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) this change was accelerated by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PROWBA). PROWBA increased restriction on child support enforcement and devised ways to reduce unwed pregnancies. The increase in work demand led to the high reduction of rolls; some families are going to work and leaving the welfare. The idea that everybody must be working to gain welfare benefits has driven most individuals who could be eligible to avoid visiting the offices. Hence the individuals depend on the income from their jobs rather than depending on welfare which requires them to be working. Between January 1993 and September 1998 Wisconsin witnessed a decline of 87 percent on caseloads. The use of WEJT by Wisconsin then JOBS contributed the highest drop in caseloads.

Table1: shows the decline of caseloads in Wisconsin in the various years.

Policy adoption

The state caseload analysis occurs between  January 1986 and December 1994; the main reason is that the changes were witnessed during the start of 1986 and JOBS data are only available up to 1994. There was numerous adoption of JOBS in various states after 1994 which made data collection difficult due to the innumerable experimentation. The state of Wisconsin adopted multiple strategies to ensure the welfare to work initiative was a reality in the state. The permission which governor Thompson requested was part of the welfare package. The three main elements were an expansion of the WEJT program, reduction and freezing the state’s need standards and benefit payment and welfare reform experiments. The move to freeze the state welfare benefits payment was the main contributor to the larger caseload reduction in the state. The decline in the funds resulted in the financing of WEJT projects and other related initiatives. The AFDC program in Wisconsin constituted of a need requirement and a standard requirement. The need requirement aspect addressed the net family income which made the family eligible to be awarded the fund, and the standard specification established the amount that the family could be granted if it had no other income. The waivers used by governor Thompson were important in the overall achievement of the caseload reduction in Wisconsin. The waivers were adopted in their phases; the governor and welfare reform team established the first phase in 1987; the second one was the projects proposed in 1992, and the third one was the general move following the election of President Clinton.  The first wave constituted mainly five policies and the three most prominent were; one being the $30and 1//6 rule, the second being the Medicaid assistance execution and 100-hour rule.  The $30 and 1/6 rule intended to take away some benefits from the working families then return the benefits after a while when the families have been guaranteed to be working.  He Medicaid Assistance extension expanded and increased the duration of health insurance subsidy for individuals who were in the welfare to work transition. The 100-hour rule innovation, on the other hand, ensured that needy two-parent families were allocated the AFDC benefits even when one of the parents was working, the funds were also allocated if the unemployed parent qualified to work for more than the standard period of 100 hours a month.  The other two policies were mainly restrictive, and they included; a 20-hour requirement which attempted to expand the participation requirement in WEJT and JOBS for mothers with preschool children.  Another move was the Learnfare which outlined that teenagers in AFDC families must attend school even those teen parents.  The failure of the teenagers to attend school meant that the family would not be awarded the benefits.

Policy implementation

The policy implementation phase took place during 1992 when Clinton was contesting for the presidency.  His main message was to “end welfare as we know it” and reduction in the time which individuals would be awarded welfare funds without working.  His move was targeting to support the National Governors Assembly led by Thompson on their welfare efforts.  In 1993 Thompson filled a request to conduct the first waiver in Wisconsin.  The main argument of the governor was work Not Welfare initiative.  The proposal was followed by the” Benefit Cap” initiative which aimed to eliminate grant increase for children to families receiving welfare funds at the time of their conception.  The suggestion by governor Thompson received some critics that families might fail to reach the two year period but the initiative was later approved the legislature in Wisconsin approved the work Not Welfare imitative but in addition required the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to submit a report by January 1995 which suggested that   “a proposal for welfare reform in this state” to replace most welfare programs by December 1998.  According to the legislature, the new plan was to guarantee income support to the needy families who could not work. It also ensured that who could work and could not get jobs would be assisted in looking for jobs. The third move was the assurance of affordable childcare support and affordable health care to needy children.

Congress passed a family support act in 1988 which aimed at ensuring the responsibility of government and parents on the welfare of the needy adults and dependent children.  The act required the change from permanent income maintenance to temporary support.  The act expected the parents to accept the support given to them to gain job training skills and to be employed to help in their move from welfare dependency to self-support.  JOBS was established by FSA to ensure that the needy parents received the necessary training to be well equipped with the needed skills in the job market. In 1994 two states Georgia and Wisconsin joined New Jersey in placing a family cap on the AFDC benefits.  The move was followed by other states which set time limits on those receiving AFDC benefits and expected the AFDC recipients to work after the transition support period.

Policy evaluation

Using the Mazmanian and Sabatier (1989) six conditions of effective implementation there is evidence that led to the successful implementation of the welfare to work policy in Wisconsin.  The legislature in Wisconsin provides the needed support to help the state in the movement from a welfare dependent state to a self-support state. The establishment of FSA led to the proper implementation of JOBS which was the primary supporter of the welfare to work initiative in most states.   The other condition of the Mazmanian and Sabatier was fulfilled when the legislature gave the requirements on the time limit that families would be awardee welfare support without work.  The third condition was also met since the waivers were allowed in Wisconsin which enabled the state to concentrate on the establishment of WEJT which could aid in ensuring that the individuals received the necessary training and support to transition from welfare to work.