Proposals offer motivations to leave welfare
The state Department of Human Services is hoping to offer new financial incentives to help families get off welfare under proposed administrative rule changes undergoing statewide public hearings.
The changes could take effect by the end of the month upon Gov. Linda Lingle's approval.
The state wants to offer qualified welfare recipients the ability to keep 100 percent of their welfare grants for the first two years of eligibility regardless of the amount of employment income they earn.
In year three of their eligibility, their grants would be reduced by 50 percent of their earnings. In year four their grants would be reduced by 64 percent of their earnings. Families qualify for no more than five years of welfare payments.
Under current rules, grants for working families are reduced by at least 64 percent depending on the amount of their income.
The state also wants to offer needy families progressive cash bonuses for getting off and staying off welfare, provide them two months of rent payments and continue to provide them grants after they have exhausted their eligibility.
Working families would be able to qualify for rent payments not to exceed 60 percent of the sum of their monthly earnings and welfare grants.
To receive the cash bonuses, families must voluntarily get off welfare within two years of receiving benefits. The bonus payments increase the longer families stay off welfare and stop if they return to welfare. Families that work at least 40 hours per week can receive up to $8,250 over two years.
And families that still need assistance after five years on welfare will be able to receive $200 a month past that deadline if they would otherwise still qualify for welfare and work at least 20 hours a week.
The department is proposing the rule changes in anticipation of revised federal regulations that will require welfare families to work more.
Last year, DHS initiated two employment programs for welfare families.
Upfront Universal Engagement begins helping needy families find jobs as soon as they apply for welfare. So far, the program has placed 515 welfare recipients in jobs.
Supporting Employment Empowerment has placed more than 300 people in jobs and job-training programs since its launch in February 2005. About 400 employers participate in the state-subsidized program.
REWARDS FOR WORKING
Proposed bonuses to encourage families to get off welfare:
||40 HOURS A WEEK
||30 HOURS A WEEK
||20 HOURS A WEEK
Source: State Department of Human Services