The ACT—RER No Choices pilot consisted of three features designed to emphasize the temporary nature of cash assistance and the need for participants to obtain work to gain independence: (1) changes to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility rules, (2) a Personal Responsibility Agreement (PRA), and (3) transitional benefits; only the first two of these were tested to determine their effectiveness.
The ACT—RER No Choices pilot was one of the demonstration projects made possible by Section 1115 waivers to the rules in effect at the time for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. These Section 1115 waivers allowed states to test new approaches to advance the objectives of the AFDC program. The ACT waiver was one of the last AFDC waivers granted before the implementation of the TANF program.
The first feature of the ACT RER—No Choices pilot was to expand TANF eligibility rules and provisions to include the following:
- a disregard of children’s earnings and resources in the calculation of family benefits;
- increased resource limits for eligibility determination;
- elimination of the work history requirement; and
- elimination of the 100-hour work rule for TANF-Unemployed Parent families, in which recipients were eligible only as long as the main wage earner worked fewer than 100 hours per month.
These provisions are a subset of the expanded eligibility rules that applied to the ACT—RER Choices pilot.
Second, ACT—RER No Choices sites also required the adoption of a PRA, which formalized families’ intention to comply with the following activities:
- child support and paternity establishment efforts;
- regular Texas Health Steps screenings for children;
- immunization requirements;
- school attendance policies; and
- parenting skills training classes (if referred).
Under the PRA, parents could not voluntarily quit a paying job of at least 30 hours per week and needed to refrain from selling or abusing illegal or controlled substances. Clients who failed to participate in the PRA requirements could receive a financial penalty.
Third, pilot participants could also receive transitional Medicaid and child care benefits if they were employed after time limits ended their cash assistance, but this was also true of comparison group participants. Therefore, the effectiveness of transitional benefits was not evaluated. Localities in the ACT—RER No Choices pilot did not operate a TANF workforce development program. The total length of services was two to four years.
ACT RER—No Choices was implemented in the following Texas localities: Hondo, Huntsville, Lockhart, and Luling. The No Choices program was a part of the ACT demonstration that operated from 1997 through 2002 and that also piloted ACT RER—Choices and ACT Time Limits.