The Health and Human Services Dept’s Office of Family Assistance (OFA) published guidance outlining how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) agencies can support post-secondary completion for TANF recipients.
OFA recommends using TANF dollars to fund work-study programs.
TANF benefits are time limited and relatively small. Consequently, parents can only escape poverty and become economically secure by obtaining stable employment with higher-than-minimum wages. Many states fail to provide TANF recipients access to postsecondary education or training opportunities because of TANF’s work participation rate (WPR) requirements.
In 2015, only 7.5% of adult TANF recipients had achieved more than a high school level of education. When TANF recipients and other low-income parents do pursue postsecondary education, they can often miss out on relevant work experience, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage in the labor market, the guidance said.
Further, requirements within the TANF program present some difficulties to states interested in supporting, it said. Due to limitations on the length of time that a state may count vocational education as a core work activity for meeting work participation requirements in the TANF program, many states are reluctant to allow educational plans for TANF participants that exceed 12 months.
To address these challenges, OFA recommends engaging TANF recipients in work-study programs, allowing students to earn money at part-time jobs while they participate in education or training that leads to economic stability. This approach also eases the burden on state TANF agencies; under federal guidelines, work-study can be counted as “core” activities toward the WPR. Taken alone without a work component, TANF recipients’ postsecondary education can only be counted toward work requirements for 12 months over their lifetime, it said.
Federal Work-Study (FWS) provides part-time employment to students who demonstrate financial need; these jobs are typically on campus and designed to accommodate student schedules. However, these funds are limited, and schools typically provide just 10-15 hours per week (not enough to meet the federal WPR). The OFA brief highlights several states, including Kentucky , California, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania , that use TANF funds to provide additional work-study opportunities for TANF participants.
Strategies to create and enhance work-study programs for TANF participants include:
- Combining work-study with education and training to meet federal work participation requirements;
- Providing on-campus support staff for work-study participants;
- Ensuring work-study income does not affect TANF eligibility;
- Supporting work-study positions with fair wages in relevant experience areas; and
- Targeting campuses with the greatest institutional need.
States should encourage postsecondary completion for TANF-eligible parents by funding work-study programs. Through work-study, TANF recipients may gain vital income support while working toward postsecondary credentials and obtain relevant work experience that can improve their chances of finding a job that provides economic stability.
Info: https://goo.gl/GkbbM9 (guidance).