More welfare recipients must go to work
New welfare reduction rules will force more aid recipients to go to work, said Brawley, the director of the Lassen County Community Social Services Department, during an update for the Board of Supervisors on state required changes in the county’s CalWORKS plan.
“It’s required by Assembly Bill 1808,” Brawley told the board at its Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting, adding the bill implements federal deficit reduction provisions in the reauthorization of Temporary Aid to Needy Families.
The TANF reauthorization requires more welfare recipients to get jobs by requiring states and counties to have a higher work participation rate among welfare recipients.
Eight years after major welfare reform generated excitement, caseloads have been reduced by more than half, funding has been cut “and the flexibility has virtually been removed,” Brawley said.
In 1998, California received a very high caseload reduction credit allowed under the federal welfare rules.
“The state didn’t have to focus very much on what our work participation rate was,” she said. “We had such an awesome credit, that we could virtually put no one in participation and meet the requirement that the feds laid down.”
With the TANF reauthorization, experts now estimate California will only receive a 3 percent credit.
“We have to have a 50 percent work participation rate for all other families and 90 percent work participation rate for our two-parent families. So, they’re a little nervous about how we’re going to make participation rates,” Brawley said.
The reauthorization also removed California counties’ ability to use federal funding for cases that used to be exempt from work participation rate calculations.
“We can’t use those federal funds anymore without counting them in the work participation rate,” Brawley said. “And those include people who have been exempt for a variety of disabilities or incapacities, people who were sanctioned or people who were timed out. We have a number of those and now they’re actually going to count against us in that calculation, which will lower our current work participation rate.”
The federal government will impose penalties by 2011 or 2012 if California can’t meet the 50 or 90 percent work participation rate.
“Counties will share in those penalties,” Brawley said. “And my understanding is, that money will come from the general fund instead of from the allocation that comes to the department.”
Brawley said the California Department of Social Services hopes counties can meet the participation rates. The new rates went into effect on Oct. 1 and CDSS admitted the counties are not meeting the rates because California rules allowed aid for a lot of families that would receive nothing under federal rules. Brawley said only five out of the 50 states met the new standards.
“Children of families who the parents had used up their entire 60 months of federal eligibility for TANF and have now timed out, we’re still aiding the children under the safety net program,” Brawley said. “Those cases are going to count against us now.”
The state will pay the penalties if counties show continuous improvement, according to DSS officials. The “amount being bandied around Sacramento” is a 10 percent improvement, so, Brawley said Lassen County must send 3 or 4 percent of its up to 150 welfare recipients back to work in the next year. The number will go up as the rate increases.
“If we’re not making improvements then there’s a chance that we will be asked to participate in the penalties,” she said.
DSS is working on programs to be implemented in the 2007-08 fiscal year, that will move welfare recipients off county aid, thus improving the county rate. Incentive funding of $55,000 will be available starting in 2008 if the county shows improvement, with the possibility of more pay for performance funds every year after that.
So far, up to $90,000 in work participation rate improvement funds have been promised but not delivered.
“My fear is that they’ll wait until March to send us the letter and they’ll want us to spend the $90,000 before June,” Brawley said.
Her department held a summit to plan for ways to help clients find jobs. Most expand or enhance existing approaches.
“Most of them are designed to address the fears that our clients have of leaving aid because, as little money as it is, at least they can count on it every month. All they have to do is fill out their report and do a few things for us,” she said.
The plan also addresses misinformation in the public sector. It focuses on increasing hours, reengaging people who are not participating, reenergizing the department’s self-sufficiency campaign, expanding or enhancing existing education, training and job retention programs, creating new and expanding existing treatment and prevention programs and continuing the review or tweaking of internal processes that began in 2004, Brawley said.
She added a significant staff shortage makes it difficult to meet the work participation rate requirements because she doesn’t have enough people to do all the work.
Lady Grizzlies celebrate a championship season
Miranda Langenhorst, back left, Mikailia Bustamante, Melica Woodhead, Dana Lovelace, Makenna Busse, Klari Scheff, bottom left, Hailey Hannah, Stevie Woodbury, Myeisha Shepard, Emilee Downing, Gabi Geoia and Jayde Hartzell pose together with the awards they were presented with at the Lassen High School...Read More...
Grizzlies soccer team plays tough, rain or shine
The Lassen High School boy’s soccer team is ready to give its opponents tough competition this year. The team is made up of Andy Wotjen, back left, Jon Langston, Cyrus White, Michael Pelfrey, Josh Schmidt, Jason Lilly, Jake Morgan, Jayce Gray, Carson Friedline, Garrison Collier, Jesus Garibo, Robert...Read More...
Sanctions upheld, Lassen College soccer cannot compete in playoffs
Dec. 2 — After a lengthy appeals process and a hugely successful soccer season, it turns out the Lassen Community College men’s and women’s soccer teams will not be allowed to compete in the playoffs. Lassen College has been appealing sanctions placed on the soccer program for competing in nontraditional...Read More...