Home News Local news Family-Aid Recipients Now Required to Work

Family-Aid Recipients Now Required to Work

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Oct. 30, 2006 — Individuals in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program must now work at least 30 hours a week to receive financial-aid benefits, an official says.
"The new regulations stress that the recipients work first, and then participate in job training," said Lennox Zamore, director of the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) program at the local Department of Human Services, which offers the TANF benefits.
The new regulations, while "stringent," will help make TANF recipients more self-sufficient, Zamore said.
"Before, we trained people for the jobs more than we made them work, and that's because some of the jobs we're looking for just don't exist — especially on St. Croix," he said.
The requirement is included in the TANF Interim Final Rule, a set of regulations that outline possible work activities for TANF recipients and ways in which the states and territories must monitor those activities. The Interim Final Rule stems from the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which outlines Medicare, Medicaid and welfare reforms, among other things.
In order to meet the new requirement, Zamore said, Human Services will work with both the public and private sectors to create job opportunities for participants. Businesses receiving Economic Development Commission tax benefits, he said, should "step up" and hire "one or two people."
"One thing that would be helpful is if individuals in the corporate community would give us a call and volunteer to get someone hired," he said. "Because many of these individuals are mothers with kids, and we don't want them to not be able to feed their families."
In the meantime, Human Services offers its own initiatives designed to help TANF participants. "We're also working on programs whereby participants will work for three months with an employer," Zamore said. "Then after three months, if they perform well, they'll be hired."
Participants with no prior work experience will have the opportunity to get involved in community-service programs, Zamore said. "We'll put them in community service where they can perform functions that benefit the community. Additionally, every single participant gets involved in a month-long work-entry course where they learn job skills which prepare them for functioning within a work environment."
The new federal requirements, which apply to both prospective and current TANF participants, may initially prove "tough" for participants, he added. "At first they [the restrictions] may have an impact, because the participants are going to be working for no money," Zamore said. "But, since we're really looking to get people a job, I don't think it's going to hurt them. I think it will motivate them."
TANF participants who follow the new regulations will receive "full support" from Human Services, he said, including training, financial assistance and transportation, among other things. "We want to take away all the barriers someone may experience," he explained.
Participants who do not follow the regulations, however, will have their financial assistance reduced by $70. "We'll issue warnings for up to 90 days, and after that, if the person still isn't following the regulations, we'll close the grant," Zamore said.
For questions on the new regulations, individuals are urged to call the JOBS office at 773-1919 on St. Croix and 774-2399 on St. Thomas.
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