NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

From Welfare To Unsubsidized Jobs

April 24, 2001

Slowly but surely welfare recipients are moving into unsubsidized jobs, according to the General Accounting Office. The bad news is that those who have one or more problems -- such as drug addiction or mental illness -- are finding it difficult to get and keep jobs.

  • The proportion of recipients who are working in unsubsidized jobs grew from 17 percent in fiscal 1997 to 25 percent in fiscal 1999.
  • Welfare rolls have fallen by more than two million families -- a decided improvement from pre-reform days when families spent an average of 13 years collecting benefits, almost always without working for them.
  • The GAO report identified six characteristics which were barriers to employment -- health problems or disabilities, no high school diploma, current domestic violence, few job skills, substance abuse and poor English skills.
  • Between 44 percent and 64 percent of welfare recipients have at least two of these barriers -- with poor health and not finishing high school the most common problems.

State welfare-to-work programs are not well equipped to help such recipients, the report found. It recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services work with states to ensure they are tailoring their work programs to help hard-to-employ recipients move into the workplace.

Source: "Welfare Reform: Moving Hard-to-Employ Recipients into the Workforce," GAO-01-368, March 15, 2001, General Accounting Office; Cheryl Wetzstein, "Welfare Recipients Holding Down Jobs," Washington Times, April 24, 2001.

For GAO report


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