Magazine article Policy & Practice

Illinois Program Promotes Family Economic Success

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Illinois Program Promotes Family Economic Success

Article excerpt

The enactment of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act ushered in a new set of demands for public human service agencies and the clients they serve. The law replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and established new work requirements and time limits for clients and work participation rates for states. At the same time, TANF provided a great deal of flexibility in the way states could design and run their programs to serve needy families.

Since the passage of TANF, states have helped millions of families in their transition from welfare to work and public cash assistance caseloads have been dramatically reduced. With more welfare recipients moving toward employment, states are starting to use new strategies to help these families maintain employment and move toward economic success.

As states grapple with helping the millions of former welfare recipients who are now low-income workers, they are developing new strategies to help these families during the critical transition period. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has implemented a series of strategies to help families in their transition to the workforce and to achieve economic success. These strategies include partnerships with community colleges; Earned Income Tax Credit outreach and free tax preparation and counseling services; and financial education training.

IDHS has implemented an extensive financial education plan to reach and educate low-income families and help them build assets. The program, Financial Links for Low Income People (FLLIP), is a statewide collaboration among several state and local agencies, community advocates, and financial institutions. Under the leadership and through financial assistance from the IDHS, FLLIP developed and implemented a financial education program and Individual Development Account (IDA) initiatives. The FLLIP program incorporated a series of financial education and saving tools through partnership with the Cooperative Extension Services at the University of Illinois. The IDA component included a two-for-one match for each dollar participants saved, up to $2,000 in matched funds. This savings could go toward home purchase or repairs, education, or vehicle maintenance. The state allowed participants in the FLLIP program, with approval from their caseworker, to count their hours in financial education toward their work requirement for the TANF program, which serve a dual purpose for TANF recipients.

The department's approach is part of a larger philosophy of family economic success. …

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