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Employment Plan Evaluation

The introduction of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 brought many changes to our nation’s social welfare policy. Attention is commonly focused on the issues of time-limited benefits and work requirements. Indeed these were significant changes in policy. Another, less discussed yet equally important feature, was the Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP).

While TANF mandated time-limited benefits and work participation requirements, individual plans outlining participation activities for each person receiving cash assistance (termed universal engagement) were not. Using such plans for engaging all clients was left to state discretion; nonetheless, the Code of Federal Regulations clearly defined the IRP's purpose and structure. The main goal of an IRP is to develop a plan for moving immediately into whatever private-sector employment the person is capable of handling as quickly as possible, over time increasing responsibility and the amount of work. The obligations of the individual are to be outlined and could include non work related activities such as keeping school age children in school, immunizing children etc (“Ensuring..., 1999). While the use of such plans was new to many states, it was not new to Utah.

Prior to the reforms of 1996, many states had obtained waivers allowing them to experiment with innovative methods of administering welfare programs. The state of Utah had obtained such a waiver entitled the Single Parent Employment Demonstration (SPED) program. The SPED program called for the use of universal engagement and individual employment (selfsufficiency) plans. Starting in January 1993, demonstration sites in Kearns, St. George, and Roosevelt tested these new initiatives. Universal engagement and individual employment plans became the statewide norm in July 1996. The state dropped the waiver as TANF was fully implemented in October 1996 (H. Thatcher, personal communication, May 21, 2004).

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Last Updated: 12/12/23