NYS Seal


Oral Testimony by Invitation Only


New York State's TANF-funded Welfare to Work Programs.


To examine the success and impact of the state's Welfare to Work Programs on the TANF population.

New York, NY
Thursday, November 20, 2008
10:00 A.M.
Assembly Hearing Room, Room 1923
19th Floor
250 Broadway

New York State spends more than $1.8 billion each year on social services programs funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Of that amount, less than $100 million is used to fund employment, training, and work support programs. Actual work programs (those programs that provide necessary skills, education, training, and/or job placement services) receive less than $12 million. Those programs include Bridge, Edge (whose funding ended in June 2008), welfare to careers, wage subsidy, VESID, Build NY, AFL/CIO Workforce Development and Career Pathways.

A 2006 report by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicated that New York ranked 45 out of 50 states in work-related measures, including job entry, job retention, earnings gain and success in the workplace. Yet the success of New York's work programs is critical in helping public assistance recipients achieve self-sufficiency. It also hinges on the state's ability to meet the 50% federal work participation rate. From October 2007 - June 2008, New York's work participation rate was 36.4% - below the federally mandated rate of 50%. If we do not meet the federal work participation rate, New York will face more than $300 million in penalties.

Education and training are arguably the most important factors in the ability of public assistance recipients to find and retain employment that pays a living wage. Many people receiving welfare have recent work history, albeit in low-wage, unskilled work. Education and training provides opportunities for career advancement, skill development, and higher wages.

In February 2008, HHS issued final TANF regulations implementing the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. A number of important changes to the rules support New York's intention to make education and training the center of our economic engine. In particular, HHS made two important changes in the final rules: first, baccalaureate and advanced degree programs are now countable towards a state's work participation rate. Second, for each hour of class time, up to one hour of unsupervised homework time required or advised by an educational program may now count towards the work participation rate.

There are undeniable long-term positive effects for children if parents are able to become better educated. Child poverty is directly related to family income, and the higher parental education levels, the higher the family income. It is reasonable to advance the goal of a more economically vibrant and secure New York by making access to education and training attainable for people receiving welfare.

New York does not take full advantage of the training, education and work experience options allowable under TANF. It relies almost exclusively on unsubsidized employment, work experience, and community service to meet the federal work participation rate. The number of public assistance (PA) recipients participating in many of the activities that relate to education and training for advancement-such as vocational education, on-the-job training, and job skills training-is quite low. While federal law allows 30% of the public assistance caseload to be engaged in vocational education training, statewide, as of September 2007, only 14% of public assistance recipients were engaged in education and/or training activities (i.e. vocational education, job skills training, and educational training).

Moreover, performance data available on the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's (OTDA) Web site offers little encouragement that PA recipients are able to secure or retain employment. For example, data on New York State's Bridge program, whose activities include job readiness/job search activities, academic services, and short-term skills training, showed that as of July 29, 2008, of the 4,106 participants enrolled, 1,073 (26%) were placed and only 635 (15%) had a 90-day job retention rate. The challenge for New York is to design and support programs that link basic education to career development by stages of educational and occupational training with potential to eventually lead to sustainable wage jobs.

The current economic crisis has no doubt exacerbated the lack of job opportunities in New York State. Yet this unpredictable factor illustrates one of the most important reasons why it is crucial that the state's welfare to work programs provide the necessary education and training to meet the demands of the ever-changing and often volatile workforce.

It is critical that the Legislature examine the impact of New York State's welfare to work programs on the TANF population and the federally required work participation rate. This hearing will provide state and city agencies as well as advocates, attorneys, service providers and other experts the opportunity to address the level of success and impact of the state's TANF-funded welfare to work programs.

Please see below for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony. Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Keith L.T. Wright
Member of Assembly
Committee on Social Services


  1. Are the state's education and training programs (including vocational education) meeting the needs of the TANF population?

  2. How successful have the TANF funded welfare to work programs been in placing welfare recipients in unsubsidized employment?

  3. What are the average earnings of public assistance recipients who secure employment after completing a vocational education, training, or job skills program?

  4. What is the average job retention rate public assistance recipients who complete a TANF-funded welfare to work program and are placed in employed? Specifically, Bridge, Edge, welfare to careers, wage subsidy, VESID, Build NY, and AFL/CIO Workforce Development.

  5. What percentage of the public assistance population has a high school diploma? Of that percentage, how many are in a GED and/or ESL program?

  6. What type of jobs does a public assistance recipient typically qualify for after he or she has been placed in a TANF-funded welfare to work program?

  7. What are the biggest obstacles to success for public assistance recipients participating in the state's welfare to work programs?

  8. Outside of TANF-funded programs, do other welfare to work programs exist, such as district-specific programs? If so, what are they and what populations are eligible?

  9. Does a college degree impact the type of job and salary a public assistance recipient is able to obtain?

  10. Are Safety Net singles able to utilize any of the state's welfare to work programs, including education and/or job skills training?

  11. Are public assistance recipients (i.e., those who receive cash assistance) able to utilize all of the TANF-funded welfare to work programs?

  12. How can New York as a state improve its work participation rate?

  13. How can New York and/or local social services district improve on existing welfare to work programs?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on New York State's TANF-funded Welfare to Work Programs are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Elaine Fernandez
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Social Services
Room 522 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
E-mail: fernane@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on New York State's TANF-funded Welfare to Work Programs to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Social Services on November 20, 2008.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.

box I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

box I do not plan to attend the above hearing.

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