Kentucky Expands Work-Study to Boost Participation Rate
Oct 09, 2009
In recent years, many states have struggled to meet the TANF work participation rate requirement. The ongoing recession has made it even tougher, as recipients, like everyone else, are having trouble finding jobs. Kentucky has been a leader in engaging recipients in education and training activities, through its Ready to Work initiative, but has been bumping up against the 30 percent limit on the share of participants who can be counted toward the work participation rate requirement due to vocational educational training. But a new infusion of work-study funds will help recipients pay their bills and stay in school, while simultaneously boosting the state's work participation rate.
Work-study jobs are a form of subsidized employment specifically designed for students. These jobs are often related to the student's field of study, and the employers are prepared to accommodate the workers' class schedules. If a TANF recipient is employed in a work-study position for at least 20 hours a week, this job counts toward the "core" hours of participation, and the classes can then be counted as job skills training, rather than vocational education. Job skills training is not subject to the 30 percent cap, and is not limited to 12 months.
In the FY 2010 budget, funding for the Ready to Work program more than doubled from $4.4 million to $10.8 million, with most of the increase dedicated to expanding work-study opportunities. In addition to work-study, Ready to Work provides students with counseling, advising and mentoring, referrals to community resources, job readiness, life skills, and academic success seminars, and job references and referrals. A Kentucky Legislative Research Commission report on the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (TANF) found that education leading to a professional certification or college degree was the most effective work activity in terms of later earnings, leading to 47 percent higher earnings than the next highest category.