Monday, December 15, 1997
The number of cases converted from AFDC to Wisconsin Works more than quadrupled in October, the second month of America's leading welfare to work program.
A total of 8,357 adults were in one of the four W-2 rungs as of the last day of October, four and one-half times more than the 1,813 recorded on September 30. Milwaukee County increased to 5,170 from 90 in September, the first month W-2 was in operation statewide.
"These are people who are well on their way to a more productive and rewarding future," said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. "Our 80 local W-2 agencies are well on our way to meeting our goal of serving everyone who is eligible by March 31."
While the 13 percent reduction is a record, the Department does not expect that rate to be sustained in the long term, Stewart said. Because W-2 is for parents who are able to work, some cases are being moved off AFDC and into SSI; in addition, payments to Non-Legally Responsible Relatives will be transitioned off AFDC and into Kinship Care. In addition, "some who are assessed as being work-ready may fall back temporarily into W-2 training grant positions. This is normal and is to be expected," Stewart added.
Because of Wisconsin Works' unique flexibility, local W-2 agencies have the freedom to devise solutions that make the most sense for their areas. Best practices in one W-2 agency often are eagerly snapped up by other agencies. Fond du Lac County, one of the pioneer W-2 agencies, has developed something called the "Quantum Work Crew."
It is modeled after the Wisconsin Conservation Corps, with which it cooperates on some work sites. Consisting of no more than eight participants to assure individual attention, the crew is supervised by a county employee, Tamara Nelson, who is responsible for getting trainees to and from each site. Fortunately, the crew has use of a county-owned van, a mobile telephone, and work tools.
Through the Quantum Work Crew, Fond du Lac County is able to make Community Service placements within 24 hours. That gets participants their first W-2 check - and on their way to their first real job - that much sooner. The Crew also helps W-2 Financial and Employment Planners (FEPs) keep closer involvement with needier participants. The crews wash windows, paint stairwells, trim and riprap river banks, restore historical plaques.
Is it working? Since its inception nine months ago, two of every three participants have already landed regular (unsubsidized) jobs. Pretty good, considering a typical CSJ enrollments can last three to six months.
|* includes 393 receiving benefits while caring for infants under 12 weeks old|