States Seek to Coordinate TANF & WIOA, But Progress is Slow

By Anna Cielinski

Many states have high interest in coordinating Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), but progress has been slow, according to new research from CLASP.

During early implementation of WIOA, CLASP surveyed TANF and WIOA agency leaders about their level of coordination between programs. Most states reported that coordination was a goal but not yet implemented. presents findings from the survey as well federal and state policy recommendations to improve coordination and better serve low-income people.

Low-income parents who participate in TANF need better, more accessible job training and support services to obtain family-sustaining work. To accomplish this, it’s important to coordinate TANF’s employment programs with federal workforce development services under WIOA.

In our survey, almost every respondent said increased coordination could improve the quality of workforce programs available to job-ready TANF recipients. In particular, coordination would provide closer connections to the labor market and increase program efficiency through reduced duplication. Most respondents expressed the opinion that their state was moving toward increased coordination.

CLASP has identified 10 strategies that, according to research, lead to additional coordination. In our survey, we asked which, if any, states were currently using. The ones mentioned most frequently were having a shared job search resource room and braiding funding streams. The least-cited strategies were team case management and assigning a single staff member to perform case management for both programs. Many respondents said that some, but not all, workforce areas used a given strategy. Some strategies—particularly those requiring technology changes—were cited as long-term goals that were years away from being implemented.

Across states, respondents consistently noted that incompatible performance measures impede collaboration. WIOA uses outcome measures, like employment and earnings, while TANF uses a different type of measure called Work Participation Rate (WPR). The WPR is a process measure; it only indicates whether participants were present at countable activities for the required number of hours. It doesn’t measure whether TANF activities led to employment or improved earnings. In order to receive credit toward the WPR, states must monitor and document all hours of participation. This distinction has been well-documented as a barrier to coordination between TANF and workforce systems.

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