Human Services announces TANF regionalization project
July 17, 2002
Bismarck, N.D. - The Department of Human Services announced that people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in southeastern North Dakota will soon benefit from a TANF regionalization project. This project will build on successful efforts already underway in Cass County that are helping people transition from public assistance into the workforce.
The department initiated the development of a seamless assistance and employment program in Cass County as a pilot program in August 2000. The agency partnered with Cass County Social Services, Job Service North Dakota, and its own Southeast Human Service Center to implement the pilot, which has doubled the number of working TANF participants in the county. The regional expansion will involve Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Steele, and Traill counties.
Governor John Hoeven said, "This is an example of agencies working together to help North Dakotans improve their standard of living and their quality of life."
The initial pilot project's success is due to effective partnerships according to Carol K. Olson, the Executive Director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. "By pooling agency strengths and integrating services, we are helping more people overcome employment barriers. Creative efforts like this will help North Dakota sustain the high performance rankings that recently earned the state a $1.3 million federal welfare to work bonus," she said.
The demonstration project has several unique aspects. When individuals apply for TANF assistance at the county social service office, they also meet with a Job Service professional to sign up for the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) program. In most counties, that process requires additional meetings. A mental health professional from the human service center is also located on site to provide assessments and to make prompt referrals for individuals whose difficulties in securing or retaining employment may be related to emotional distress, domestic violence or addiction. In addition, case managers actively work to support client employment goals.
"We provide short-term, focused assistance to help people get jobs. Some people have longer term needs and face greater challenges to employment, and this structure assures that they have early and easy access to the individualized services that they need, whether that is training and education, mental health or addiction treatment, or other services," said Kathy Hogan, Director of Cass County Social Services.
Welfare reform replaced the AFDC program with the TANF program. It provides temporary cash assistance and requires adult participants to become employed as a means of transitioning off of public assistance. Federal and state laws place a 60-month lifetime limit on TANF benefits. However, individuals who qualify for hardship exemptions can receive assistance longer.
In May 2002, there were 3,156 families, including 5,929 children, receiving TANF assistance in North Dakota. Cass County is home to about 12 percent of the North Dakotans who receive TANF. The average monthly TANF benefit per family is $366 in North Dakota.
John Hougen, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-1715
Kathy Hogan, Director, Cass County Social Services, (701) 241-5761
Jaci Gately, Job Service North Dakota, (701) 239-7383
Nancy McKenzie, Regional Director, Southeast Human Service Center, (701) 298-4500
Heather Steffl, Public Information Specialist, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-4933