Implementation and Three-Year Impacts of Florida's Initial Time-Limited Welfare Program

| Dan Bloom, Mary Farrell, James J. Kemple, Nandita Verma

This is the fourth report in MDRC’s multi-year evaluation of Florida’s Family Transition Program (FTP), one of the most important initiatives developed under waivers of federal welfare rules granted before the passage of the 1996 welfare law. Implemented in 1994, FTP was one of the first welfare reform initiatives to impose a time limit on the receipt of cash assistance; it also provides a rich array of services and supports designed to help participants achieve self-sufficiency. FTP was planned as a pilot program and operates in one county — Escambia (Pensacola). However, it has also informed the design of Florida’s current statewide program, called WAGES.

Like the previous reports in the study, this one presents a generally positive picture of FTP’s results. Three years after entering the study, individuals who were subject to FTP received less public assistance and had higher overall income, on average, than similar people in a group that remained subject to the prior welfare policies. The results varied for subgroups of the welfare population: Those who entered FTP with both a high school diploma (or equivalent) and recent work history experienced particularly large gains in earnings and income. In contrast, those who had no diploma and no recent work history actually had lower income than their counterparts in the group subject to prior policies.

Under FTP, most recipients are limited to 24 months of welfare receipt in any 60-month period; certain groups facing greater barriers to employment are limited to 36 months in any 72-month period. Relatively few participants reached FTP’s time limits during the three-year follow-up period for this report, but almost all of those had their welfare grants ended. Data are just beginning to emerge from follow-up studies examining the families whose grants were discontinued.

The final report in the FTP study, scheduled for next year, will fill in critical pieces of this unfolding story. It will include data for at least four years of follow-up, long enough to see whether the overall results — or the results for specific subgroups — begin to change when the more disadvantaged recipients begin to reach the 36-month time limit. The report will also draw on a survey of several thousand study participants that will provide detailed data on respondents’ living arrangements, household income, and job characteristics, and the well-being of their children. The final report will also present the results of a number of in-depth interviews conducted 18 months after recipients reached the time limit and had their grants terminated.

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