Workfare Act Exposed

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The Workfare Act was adopted by ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force and approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in 1989. ALEC has attempted to distance itself from this piece of legislation after the launch of in 2011, but it has done nothing to get it repealed in the states where it previously pushed for it to be made into law.

ALEC Bill Text


Public assistance should be formulated in terms of a contract between government and the individual. Responsibility must flow in two directions. The individual must be committed to undertaking a number of specific actions to prepare for and seek a job, with the objective of achieving self-sufficiency. The major obligation of the individual in the public assistance contract is to prepare for, seek, accept, and retain a job. All employable welfare recipients should be required to seek employment or perform public service in exchange for their benefits. Employable recipients who refuse to comply should be denied their benefits

Experiments in Arkansas, California, and Washington have shown that required job search programs or job search combined with “work experience” where the welfare recipient performs service in a government agency or non-profit agency in exchange for benefits) can significantly reduce welfare rolls and costs. According to the evidence available, job search and work experience programs produce greater increases in employment and are more cost effective than training programs for welfare recipients.

Model Legislation

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Participation}

The following individuals shall be required to participate in the workfare and employment program subject to the guidance specified in Section 1.

(A) Adult AFDC recipients who: are not disabled; do not have a child under age six; have no record of employment during the past two years; and have been enrolled in the AFDC program for at least one year.

(B) Male parents in families on the AFDC-UP program who: are not disabled; and have been enrolled in the AFDC-UP for at least three months.

Section 2. {Program requirements}

Recipients entering the workfare program will participate in the following sequence of activities. Recipients will first participate in an organized job search workshop for a period of eight weeks. Those who have not obtained employment at the end of this eight week period will participate in the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP). Participants who do not obtain paid employment while participating in the work experience activities will continue in the CWEP for at least six months.

(A) The organization job search workshop will provide for one week of job search orientation instruction followed by seven weeks of closely supervised group job search including participation in a job search phone bank.

(B) Individuals in the work experience program will serve in an unpaid position in the public or private sector non-profit organization. The number of hours of work experience per week in the CWEP program will be determined by dividing the value of the family AFDC grant and food stamps received by the family by the federal minimum wage or the state minimum wage wherever applicable, at least four house of required participation per week will be set aside to provide the participant with the opportunity to engage in supervised job search activities if desired.

Section 3. {Program Phase-In}

AFDC and AFDC-UP recipients identified in Section 1A and 1B shall be termed “program eligible recipients.” Participation in the work program by eligible recipients shall be phased-in in the following manner.

Section 4. {Severability clause}

Section 5. {Repealer clause}

Section 6. {Effective date}

Adopted by the Health and Human Services Task Force and approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in 1989.