HARRISBURG, Pa., (PRNewswire) — Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman said today the agency is making significant progress to meeting new federal work participation rates for Pennsylvanians in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Pennsylvania’s work participation rate reached 32 percent in July and is on track to reach 50 percent for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
“In a very short period of time, Pennsylvania has achieved the highest participation rate since TANF was enacted,” Richman said. “We are taking many steps to help promote work and self-sufficiency.”
Pennsylvania’s work participation rate reached 32 percent in July, more than double the 15.7 percent rate in Federal Fiscal Year 2005 and more than four times the 7.1 percent rate in 2004. This is the highest federal participation level that was ever achieved in Pennsylvania since TANF was enacted in 1996.
Prior to this year, the federal government measured state progress by looking at both caseload trends and work participation rates. Pennsylvania cut its TANF cash assistance caseload by more than half since 1996, enough to meet the federal targets on this measure alone. Under the new TANF rules adopted in February, Pennsylvania will no longer get the same credit for reducing caseload. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 changed the yardstick for measuring progress for the federal fiscal year starting October 1, 2006.
“This task becomes even more challenging in light of the fact that many of the most work-ready individuals enrolled in TANF have already moved from welfare to work,” Richman added. “The department estimates that more than one-third of the remaining adult TANF cash assistance recipients have serious barriers — such as mental illness, physical disabilities or are victims of domestic violence — that must be addressed before they can succeed in training or on the job.”
Many families are able to move into the workforce relatively quickly with the help they receive from DPW’s employment and training programs. Since 1995, more than 160,000 adults receiving TANF cash assistance have graduated to the workforce.
The federal government recently clarified that states will be given an opportunity to take corrective action if necessary to meet the 50 percent target and that the earliest penalties could begin would be in 2009.
“Even though the federal government has given us extra time, we are still proceeding as if we need get there by October 1,” explained Richman.