The WRP created a work requirement and provided financial incentives to work for single parents and two-parent families with a disabled or unemployed parent receiving cash assistance. This evaluation directly compared the WRP with a separate intervention, WRP Incentives Only, to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive feature of the WRP was the work requirement.
The WRP 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 WRP placed work requirements on parents after 15 months (for two-parent families with an unemployed parent) or 30 months (for single-parent families and two-parent families with a disabled parent) of receiving cash assistance. Immediately upon enrolling in the WRP, two-parent families with an unemployed parent were enrolled in Reach Up (Vermont’s voluntary welfare-to-work program), through which they received case management and participated in job search activities. The WRP placed these participants in subsidized minimum-wage community service employment (CSE) if they were unemployed after receiving cash assistance for 15 months.
If single parents and two-parent families with a disabled parent did not obtain unsubsidized employment on their own within 28 months of receiving cash assistance, the primary earner parent was required to participate in job search activities. If that parent remained unemployed after receiving cash assistance for 30 months, he or she was placed in subsidized CSE. The WRP also provided financial incentives to work. For example, the WRP allowed participants to earn more and have more of certain assets without losing eligibility for assistance. All participants were subject to these rule changes upon entry into the WRP. Families that transitioned from welfare to work were eligible for expanded support from Medicaid and transitional child care assistance. If participants did not comply with the work requirement, the state limited their use of the cash assistance grant and required the primary earner parent to attend meetings at the welfare office. The WRP did not place a time limit on receipt of cash assistance. Cash assistance applicants and current recipients were eligible for the WRP. While the WRP program was implemented in all 12 of Vermont's welfare districts, the study focused on 6 of these regions in Vermont.
The effectiveness of the WRP when compared with WRP Incentives Only indicates the effect of being referred to the services that are unique to the WRP or how much better the offer of the WRP meets participants’ needs than WRP Incentives Only. All the financial incentives to encourage and reward work implemented under the WRP also applied to WRP Incentives Only participants. Although the WRP placed work requirements on participants after 15 or 30 months, no WRP Incentives Only participants faced work requirements. The evaluation comparing the WRP with WRP Incentives Only also tested the effectiveness of the WRP and WRP Incentives Only compared with usual services.