NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How New York City Transformed Welfare Into Work

April 2, 2002

New York City's reformed welfare system has successfully moved hundreds of thousands of recipients from welfare to work and should serve as a model for other urban areas, reports an on-site review team.

According to the assessment by the American Institute for Full Employment:

  • The number of New York City families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) decreased 53.6 percent from May 1996 to May 2001 -- with the number of recipients dropping from 804,889 to 421,573.
  • Since 1995, 250,000 welfare recipients have been assigned to the Work Experience Program, which requires them to perform unpaid tasks for city agencies while receiving benefits and obtaining employment.
  • By the end of 1999, the city's Human Resources Administration (HRA) achieved its goal of "full engagement" -- requiring that all able-bodied adult recipients were engaged in work or work-related activities -- and is progressing toward the goal of placing all eligible welfare recipients in unsubsidized employment.
  • In 2000 alone, HRA found jobs for 132,954 recipients, and in the first six months of 2001 found jobs for an additional 47,405.

This has been accomplished by a variety of approaches -- with a strong focus on the hardest-to-serve populations. All employable adult welfare applicants are referred to contractors for Skills Assessment and Job Placement (SAP) and Employment Services Placement (ESP). These private sector contractors are paid for performance, based on job placement and several levels of job retention, with detailed program design left to the contractor. A sophisticated computer system automates many aspects of case management and provides data to assess performance and improve outcomes.

The city has had to overcome significant constraints imposed by New York State policy, including "weak and cumbersome" sanction policies that "make it extremely difficult for NYC to motivate those who refuse to participate...."

Source: Jo Anne Barnhart, Deborah Chassman and Sandie Hoback, "Moving from Full Engagement to Full Employment: a Program Review of New York City's Welfare Reform," November 5, 2001, American Institute for Full Employment, 2636 Biehn Street, Klamath Falls, Ore. 97601, (541) 273-6731.


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