[Excerpt] One of the central features of the 1996 welfare reform law (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, PRWORA, P.L. 104-193) was its focus on requiring and promoting work and job preparation for parents (mostly single mothers) in needy families with children. That law created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, and completed a decades-long evolution in policy, from one where cash assistance was provided to families headed by single mothers to permit them to stay at home and care for their children to one of encouraging and ultimately requiring work.
This report examines the work participation standards and requirements for cash assistance recipients of the TANF block grant, which was created in the 1996 welfare reform law. This report
• provides a short history of work requirements in programs that provide cash assistance to needy families with children;
• reviews the major studies that contribute to the knowledge of what types of welfare-to-work programs are effective;
• discusses the TANF work provisions that apply directly to individuals and analyzes FY2009 data on engagement in work and work-related activities of adults in TANF households;
• discusses the TANF work participation standards that apply to states and analyzes FY2009 data on participation as they relate to those standards; and
• discusses some issues that Congress might consider in the future, such as how the work standards can address changing circumstances and the difficulties of measuring the performance of states in the context of a block grant.