Welfare Reform in California: Early Results from the Impact Analysis

By Jacob Alex Klerman; V. Joseph Hotz et al. | Go to book overview

2.
Program Participation

Counties use their CalWORKs funds to provide services that are intended to help recipients find jobs, make them self-sufficient, and enable them to leave cash assistance. The services are also intended to engage enough recipients for the state to meet two goals: aggregate federal participation requirements and the CalWORKs legislation's individual participation-rate requirement.1

This section considers the evidence of the counties' success in engaging current recipients of cash assistance in WTW activities. We begin with an overview of the descriptive findings on participation rates and California's creation of a separate state program (SSP) for two-parent families in October 1999. We then present a more detailed discussion of the components of participation. Finally, we examine some possible explanations of what might account for the descriptive findings.


Overview of Descriptive Findings

The first goal—meeting federal participation rates—has been satisfied. Despite some concern in federal fiscal year (FFY) 1997 about the two-parent rate, California has met both the all-families and the two-parent participation-rate requirements every year. As a result, the state has borne no federal penalties and has been subject to a lower maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement (75 percent instead of 80 percent of pre-PRWORA spending). Furthermore, California's participation rates are rising and are higher than those of the nation as a whole. With the establishment of the SSP for two-parent families2 (and probably even without it), the caseload decline and the resulting caseload reduction credit imply that as long as the requirements and the method of computing them remain unchanged and there is not a major recession, California should have no trouble meeting the adjusted targets. However, because the participation rates are similarly not binding in most other states, there is serious discussion about

____________________
1
The CalWORKs statute (11320.3) states: “Except as provided in subdivision (b) or if otherwise exempt, every individual, as a condition of eligibility for aid under this chapter, shall participate in welfare-to-work activities under this article.”
2
The establishment of an SSP is likely to decrease the all-families participation rate. Two-parent families have higher participation rates than one-parent families. Thus, the all-families rate is a weighted average of the two groups. Since California has a high proportion of two-parent cases, pulling them out will leave the one-parent families, who have lower participation rates.

-14-

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