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Under the vision and flexibility provided by TANF, states have transformed their public assistance programs into innovative and comprehensive workforce assistance programs. TANF has succeeded because its purposes are not only to help families escape cash welfare dependency, but also to support families that are working, help them advance in employment, and help parents build stronger families.
Other major Federal assistance programs serving low-income populations provide similar assistance to TANF. Yet the potential effectiveness of all these programs combined is greatly compromised by differences in administrative practices and program rules. This problem makes serving low-income populations more difficult than need be and hampers state efforts to help individuals and families escape government dependency.
The Administration proposes new waiver authority that will allow states to build stronger, more integrated and effective service systems across a broad range of public assistance and training programs. States and local areas will find it easier to plan and enter into partnerships with businesses, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations to help those who are seeking work, struggling to retain their jobs, or trying to climb the career ladder. The authority granted under the Administrations proposed waivers will allow states to build coherent and comprehensive strategies on behalf of low-income individuals and families. States will be able to deliver more seamless services tied to stated program goals and self-sufficiency and employment outcomes.
Summary of Proposals
Establish New State Program Integration Waivers. The Administrations proposal will allow states to seek new waivers for integrating funding and program rules across a broad range of public assistance and workforce development programs. States will submit waiver applications detailing their plans to the Federal Government. The Cabinet Secretaries of each Federal Department with jurisdiction over the affected programs will be able to negotiate specific terms and conditions related to their programs and waive any rules that are inconsistent with the proposal. The programs include, but are not limited to:
Broad State Flexibility to Design New Strategies and Approaches for Achieving Stated Program Goals. States will be able to establish or modify eligibility criteria and program rules subject to specific and minimal Federal requirements. States will be required to assist the same general populations currently targeted by their programs. In their waiver proposals, states will be required to identify the programs and activities for which waivers are requested, describe how the program purposes will be achieved, and show how the proposal will improve or enhance the achievement of such goals.
Waivers Granted on the Basis of Likelihood of Success. Agreements related to modification of program rules will be made subject to approval by each relevant Cabinet Secretary. They will be able to waive the specific program requirements if the proposed project is likely to improve the quality or effectiveness of the programs involved.
Maintain Accountability for Program Performance. States will need to describe the integrated performance objectives and outcomes for the proposed program, including any modification to reporting requirements and performance measures. Integrated programs for which waivers are granted will be operated as demonstration programs and participating states will be required to evaluate the program.
Require Reforms to be Cost Neutral. The waiver terms and conditions will be subject to stringent cost neutrality requirements. Proposals will need to be cost-neutral across all programs for which a waiver is requested, and states will be required to agree to abide by specific cost neutrality targets. The terms and conditions will specify funding levels above which waiver program activities will be suspended or terminated. The terms and conditions will also specify spending levels above which payment or repayment of state funds will be required.
Regular Reports to Congress. Each Department will be required to report annually on the number and scope of waivers approved under this provision, the specific statutory provisions waived, along with any recommendations to the Congress for modification to current programs based on findings from the state program evaluations.