WorkFirst NJ’s Community Work Experience Program

WorkFirst New Jersey’s Community Work Experience Program

Jana Blahak, Storm Ervin, Sofia Javed, Maheen Rashid, Daniel Saunders, Waqas Sheikh

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In January 2018, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDLWD) asked graduate students at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy to conduct a four-month study on WorkFirst New Jersey’s Community Work Experience Program (CWEP). In 1996, under President Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it,” Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) (Public Law 104-193) that made monumental changes to federal welfare policy, including imposing work requirements on recipients as a condition for cash assistance, as well as lifetime limits on benefit receipt. This act led to the creation of welfare-to-work initiatives. Under PRWORA, states require participants to engage in work activities and impose sanctions if individuals refuse to participate. In 2005, the Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), that added several provisions to improve the reliability of work participation data and integrity. The passage of the Deficit Reduction Act (2005) increased pressure on states to meet a federally determined Work Participation Rate (WPR). As a result, states increased the use of Work Experience Programs to increase their WPR. CWEP is one of the core work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Assistance (GA) beneficiaries in the state of New Jersey. 1 The purpose of CWEP is to provide experience and training to individuals to assist them in obtaining unsubsidized employment.