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Pilot project moves people from welfare to work, study shows

August 1, 2003

Bismarck, N.D. - A collaborative effort in Cass County is gaining attention for helping low-income families transition more quickly from public assistance to employment and greater self-sufficiency. The partnering organizations - Cass County Social Services, the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Job Service North Dakota, and Southeast Human Service Center - have data suggesting that collaborating and collocating services benefits clients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program.

The Cass County pilot is an assistance and employment program that makes it easy for people to access services. Individuals applying for TANF assistance at the county social service office meet with a Job Service professional immediately. The on-site mental health professional provides assessments and makes referrals for mental health, domestic violence or addiction needs, if appropriate, and case managers work to help clients reach their employment goals.

"I congratulate the partnering agencies," said Governor John Hoeven. "By working together they are helping more North Dakotans improve their standard of living and their quality of life."

Department of Human Services' staff will brief Cass County Social Service Board members, Monday, August 4, 2003 about the outcomes of a pilot project initiated in August 2000. The board meeting is at 1:30 p.m. in the basement of the Cass County Annex Building, 1010 2nd Ave. S., Fargo.

The analysis shows that a higher proportion of the TANF clients in Cass County are leaving assistance more quickly, and parents are more involved in work activities. Recidivism rates are lower, and households are earning more, on average, upon exiting TANF. The effort is also generating more referrals for mental health and substance abuse treatment services. In short, partners agree and the data suggests that their efforts are helping more people successfully address barriers to self-sufficiency.

"It is exciting to share these outcomes," said Carol K. Olson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. "This collaboration is effective, and we all look forward to rolling it out to other areas in the future, while also addressing local needs and resource constraints."

The pilot takes a no-nonsense approach when people do not comply with the program. If an individual isn't making the appropriate effort, the household's TANF case is closed, and the family loses TANF assistance. Because low-income individuals must be caretakers of children in order to qualify for TANF, this creates an incentive to comply with treatment or training and work activity requirements. There is also a federally mandated 60-month life time limit on TANF benefits. Individuals who qualify for hardship exemptions can receive assistance longer, but for most the assistance is temporary.

While Cass County is an economic bright spot in the state, analysts say the pilot project's results are similar to a TANF pilot project in Williams County, which featured many of the same elements, as well as mentoring. The pilot project evaluation report will be posted on the department's web site, www.nd.gov/humanservices.

In April 2003, there were 3,349 families, including 6,013 children, receiving TANF assistance in North Dakota. Cass County is home to about 10 percent of the North Dakotans who receive TANF. The average monthly TANF benefit per family is $375 in the state.

Contacts:

Carol K. Olson, Executive Director, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-2538
John Hougen, Director of Public Assistance, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-1715
Kathy Hogan, Director, Cass County Social Services, (701) 241-5761
Jaci Gately, Program Supervisor, Job Service North Dakota, (701) 239-7383
Nancy McKenzie, Regional Director, Southeast Human Service Center and Northeast Human Service Center, (701) 795-3088 (GF) , or (701) 298-4500 (Fargo)

 

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