Evaluation of SB 1041 Reforms to California’s CalWORKs Program (2014-2017)

The California Budget Act of 2012 — “Senate Bill (SB) 1041” — included significant reforms to California’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program known as CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids).

The reforms, effective as of January 2013, included changes to the participant time clock, work requirements, and earned income disregard, among other changes, with the goal of engaging participants in more intensive work activities as early as possible, while also providing more flexibility in work activity options and increased financial incentives as participants move toward self sufficiency.

To fully understand if SB 1041 is achieving its objectives and if there are any unintended consequences, the California legislature required an independent evaluation. Following a competitive bidding process, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) awarded the evaluation contract to RAND, in partnership with the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Stanfield Systems also is supporting the project.

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Study Questions

The evaluation seeks to address key questions regarding the implementation and impact of SB 1041:

  • Has SB 1041 provided greater flexibility in the services and activities available to participants?
  • Has SB 1041 helped to remove barriers to participants’ employment?
  • Has SB 1041 accelerated participants’ paths to self-sufficiency?
  • Has SB 1041 improved the well-being of participant children and their families?
  • Has SB 1041 affected participants’ transitions at the 25-month mark?
  • How have the changes affected CalWORKs and related programs at the county level?
  • Has SB 1041 affected California’s TANF annual Work Participation Rates?

The study team will make recommendations for improvements to the CalWORKs program based on the evaluation findings.

Study Components

The study questions will be addressed through five study components:

  1. The Process Study will address questions related to SB 1041 implementation over time using data from interviews with state-level key informants, from annual interviews and focus groups in six focal counties (Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, and Stanislaus), and from an annual All-County Survey (ACS) of welfare directors.
  2. The Participant Status Study will employ CDSS welfare system administrative data to provide a series of annual snap shots of indicators for the CalWORKs participant population.
  3. The Participant Tracking Study will likewise draw on the array of state- and county-level administrative databases to provide a series of annual summaries of the dynamics of the CalWORKs caseload.
  4. The County Welfare Operations Impact Study will rely on the information gathered from the focal counties and the ACS, as well as administrative data from county welfare offices on program staffing, budgets, and other matters, to assess the impact of SB 1041 on multiple dimensions of county welfare office operations.
  5. The Participant Impact Study will combine administrative data with primary data collected over time for a sample of welfare entrants, the California Socioeconomic Survey (CalSES), to investigate the impact of SB 1041 on a range of adult and child outcomes for current and former CalWORKs participants.

Study Timetable and Products

The project was launched in July 2014 and will be completed in December 2019. The first product from this project is a background and study design report. Results from the project will be disseminated through a series of reports that will be posted to the Publications page.