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Research Questions

  1. How did the process of implementation of SB 1041 continue to unfold from mid-2015 to mid-2016?
  2. Did counties continue partnerships with other public and private service providers to implement SB 1041?
  3. Were there improvements in how well county welfare office staff and CalWORKs participants understood the SB 1041 policy changes?
  4. What was the experience of counties with ongoing implementation of the Online CalWORKs Appraisal Tool (OCAT), the Family Stabilization (FS) program, and the Expanded Subsidized Employment (ESE) program?
  5. How do participant indicators compare up to three years after enrollment if participants entered CalWORKs before versus after SB 1041 became effective?

The California Budget Act of 2012, through trailer Senate Bill (SB) 1041, contained significant reforms to the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. CalWORKs is California's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a central component of the safety net that provides cash aid for low-income families with children. The SB 1041 reforms to CalWORKs aim to engage participants in more-intensive work activities as early as possible, while also providing more flexibility in work activity options and increased incentives for work as participants move toward self-sufficiency. The California legislature included a provision in the bill for an independent evaluation to determine if SB 1041 is achieving its objectives and if there are any unintended consequences.

This second evaluation report extends the analyses in the initial evaluation report through updated findings from the process study based on the second wave of the All-County Survey and qualitative data from interviews with county welfare office staff, focus groups with caseworkers, and interviews with CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work (WTW) clients conducted in the six focal counties. Findings from the status, tracking, and impact studies are based on updated and extended analysis of state administrative data. Findings from the first wave of the California Socioeconomic Survey, which will eventually contribute to the impact study, are featured as well.

This evaluation report should be relevant for stakeholders in the public and private sectors interested in the CalWORKs program and in the TANF program more generally.

Key Findings

Experience with ongoing implementation

  • State- and county-level stakeholders agreed that the core components of SB 1041 had been implemented as of mid-2016, although issues remained with the execution of some components, particularly the welfare-to-work (WTW) 24-month time clock.
  • Counties continued to expand or enhance partnerships with local service providers, especially in areas where gaps previously existed.
  • Understanding of the more-complex components of SB 1041 (e.g., WTW 24-month time clock) appears to have improved over time, but shortfalls remained.
  • The OCAT was viewed as a useful tool for identifying barriers, but there were concerns with the time to administer the tool, the sensitive nature of the information collected, and administration in settings without privacy.
  • The FS and ECE programs were viewed as key supporting components for SB 1041, although use of the ECE program was below expectations as of mid-2016.

Participant indicators

  • For two initial post–SB 1041 cohorts entering CalWORKs in 2013 and 2014, usage of the flexible WTW 24-month time clock appears to be low two and three years after entry.
  • Descriptive analyses of other participant indicators show little change in ever having an exemption or in ever having a sanction, and some increase in employment and earnings but do not confirm that these trends result from SB 1041.
  • An empirical approach to estimate the causal effect of SB 1041 on participant outcomes suggests small changes up to two years after implementation. But since SB 1041 reforms had not yet been fully implemented across all counties, strong effects on outcomes are not expected until more time has elapsed.

Recommendations

  • As the interim product of a multiyear evaluation, this report with evaluation findings was not intended to lead to specific recommendations.
  • The challenges with understanding the WTW 24-month time clock suggest the need for case workers to provide more effective guidance and resource materials to WTW clients.
  • Other aspects of implementation that merit ongoing monitoring include the administration of the OCAT tool, participation patterns and service mix for the FS program, and take-up for the ESE program.
  • Counties that experiment with process improvements may provide useful models or best practices for other counties to implement.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Sources of Data and Methods

  • Chapter Three

    State-Level Perspectives on the Ongoing Implementation of SB 1041

  • Chapter Four

    The Ongoing Implementation of SB 1041 at the County Level: Results from the 2016 ACS

  • Chapter Five

    A Six-County Perspective on the Ongoing Implementation of SB 1041

  • Chapter Six

    Updated Descriptive Analyses for Status and Tracking Studies

  • Chapter Seven

    Updated Descriptive Analyses for the Impact Study

  • Chapter Eight

    Conclusions and Policy Implications

  • Appendix A

    Understanding How the CalWORKs Program Functions

  • Appendix B

    Additional Documentation for Primary Data Collection

  • Appendix C

    Additional Documentation for Administrative Data

  • Appendix D

    Additional Results for Chapter Four ACS Analyses

  • Appendix E

    Additional Documentation for Chapter Six Status and Tracking Studies Analyses

  • Appendix F

    Additional Documentation for Chapter Seven Impact Study Analyses

This research was prepared for the California Department of Social Services and conducted jointly by RAND Education and Labor and the Social and Behavioral Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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