From Welfare to Recovery Unemployment and Public Policy in Illinois

Welfare to Recovery

PWORA vs. Key Concepts from A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving

Annotated Bibliography

Over the last several years, the total number of people who are receiving welfare assistance has been increasingly brought to the forefront. This is because of shifts in the way these programs are run with increased accountability and transparency. In the state of Illinois, these transformations are more pronounced with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). ("Public Law 104 -- 193," 1996) (Grogger, 2009)

This is a federal law that shifted the way welfare assistance is provided to the poor. These changes are occurring in several different areas including: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills training program (JOBS). TANF is a provision that provides cash assistance to needy families for a total of 60 months (over a person's lifetime). ("Public Law 104 -- 193," 1996) (Grogger, 2009)

In some cases, the states can make adjustments to these guidelines (with the implementation of their own welfare protocols). Once someone reaches this level, is the point when aid will be completely eliminated or reduced for adults. The basic idea is to place restrictions on the kinds of assistance someone can receive and the amount of time they can remain in the program. ("Public Law 104 -- 193," 1996) (Grogger, 2009)

The JOBS program is helping recipients to learn some kind of meaningful skill they can use. At the same time, they will work with the state unemployment agency to place recipients in different careers. The strategy is designed to increase accountability by having the person actively seeking out meaningful employment. Then, once they obtain the job, these people have the skills and training necessary to keep it. The combination of these factors is supposed to create a program that is responsive to recipients (versus becoming an entitlement for low income individuals and families). ("Public Law 104 -- 193," 1996) (Grogger, 2009)

To determine the effectiveness of this program in the state of Illinois requires comparing these provisions with Eugene Bardach's A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving. This will be accomplished by studying various aspects of the law in contrast with key ideas and conducting an Annotated Bibliography. Together, these elements will offer specific insights about how public policy decisions are implemented.

PWORA vs. Key Concepts from A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving

In A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving; Bardach (2000) thinks that communication is an essential part of the process. This is because the relationship between officials, recipients and other stakeholders will have an effect on how successful the program will be over the long-term. To determine if the different sides are communicating effectively, Bardach recommends using the New York Taxi Driver Test. This is when communication must be simple enough for these individuals to comprehend critical ideas and realize their lasting impact. (Bardach, 2000)

At the same time, these people are known for having a certain amount of skepticism. Anyone who can convince a person of this mindset, to follow their ideas, is effectively communicating with different stakeholders. This is the point that the policy can take into the account those issues and challenges that are most important to select segments. (Bardach, 2000)

Moreover, there is an eight step approach that officials must follow in order to consider different perspectives when implementing any kind of policy changes. This includes: defining the problem, assembling evidence, constructing alternatives, selecting the criteria, projecting the outcomes, confronting the tradeoffs, deciding and telling the story to everyone. The combination of these factors will help to create policy decisions that are taking into account the needs of stakeholders in the process. (Bardach, 2000)

Defining the Problem

Defining the problem is when everyone is looking at the issues and challenges impacting the public. This process involves examining a number of solutions and debating the lasting effects on society. In the case of the PRWORA, the problem is defined with many individuals unable to find long-term skills or employment. This is because they will have to spend considerable amounts of time in school receiving the assistance they need. (Bardach, 2000)

To make matters worse this segment of the population, is more likely to be underemployed. This is from them not having the experience or education to work in the higher paying jobs. For most employers, these kinds of individuals are easy to locate in the current economic environment. These factors are illustrating how the PRWORA is creating problems for the most vulnerable in society. This occurring with the limited amounts of time someone is allowed to remain in the program. The sudden decreases in benefits, hurts their standard of living and ability to provide for their families. (Bardach, 2000)

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services has offered waivers to the states from TANF provisions. This is provided that they can show credible approaches through reducing unemployment by 20%. These changes are illustrating how the problem is negatively impacting a variety of stakeholders. What is making it worse, are these provisions requires someone to leave welfare (even though the economy could be in a severe recession). This is illustrating how the PRWORA is creating new challenges by cutting off recipients when they are most vulnerable. It is at this point when many low income families will realize a severe decline in their standard of living. (Hymowitz, 2012)

Assembling Evidence

Assembling the evidence is when different sources of information are collected to highlight the problem and potential solutions. This means looking at various data and comparing key findings with one another to understand the overall trends. This will offer a basic background of key ideas and areas of weakness associated with current strategies. (Bardach, 2000)

When this is applied to the PRWORA in Illinois, there are conflicting pieces of information which are illustrating how the law has added certain amounts of personal responsibility to public welfare programs. For example, according to Bauer (2010) these reforms have been a tremendous success. This is because there was a focus on removing these individual from government programs and having greater amounts of accountability. (Bauer, 2010)

Evidence of this can be seen with Bauer saying, "Welfare reform has been an overwhelming success. Since 1996, welfare caseloads have decreased 70%, which translates into 8.8 million fewer people dependent on government. Child-poverty rates dropped, particularly among blacks and Hispanics. Teen pregnancies have (until recently) decreased, and child-support collections have increased." This is showing how the PRWORA has forced the parents to assume greater responsibility for themselves and their families. The results are reduced case loads from people who are dependent upon these programs. (Bauer, 2010)

However, the tighter controls means, that there are greater amounts of confusion among select segments of the population (such as: foreign born immigrants). In these situations, many people feel that if they try to understand or seek out assistance. It will result in them losing their benefits. Moreover, they are fearful if they do speak out. There is a possibility of additional scrutiny from immigration officials. This is problematic, as this segment of society is the most vulnerable from their inability to locate the assistance they need. (Paral, 2011)

According to Paral (2011), these challenges are directly associated with changes in welfare reform laws. In study that he conducted of the Illinois immigrant population; he determined that they were the most adversely affected by these provisions. Evidence of this can be seen with him saying, "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), passed in August 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA, passed in September 1996), have substantially restructured immigrants' eligibility for public benefits programs. The result of the legislative overhaul has been widespread confusion among immigrants about their eligibility for benefits programs and fear that they may be determined to be a public charge if they utilize benefits programs." (Paral, 2011)

This is showing how these concerns are resulting in fewer immigrants using public assistance programs. In many cases, this has led to severe declines in their standard of living and quality of life. This increases; the chances that this demographic will suffer from greater amounts of pressure by not having access to additional support. (Paral, 2011)

As a result, all evidence is showing how there are benefits and drawbacks from the implementation of the PRWORA. This is offering the different sides with facts they need to enhance their viewpoints. When in reality, these changes are providing mixed results that are addressing select aspects of the problem. However, like any kind of reforms there will be certain segments that will be adversely affected by any transformations. (Paral, 2011)

Constructing Alternatives

Constructing alternatives is when there is a concentration on different solutions for addressing the problem. The primary…