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September 23, 1999

Governor Announces $45 Million Grant For Welfare-To-Work

CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced that Illinois has received more than $45 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to enhance the state's Welfare-to-Work Block Grant program.

"Illinois was recently recognized for having the most successful Welfare-to-Work Block Grant program in the country," Ryan said. "We plan to build on that success by moving more people from government dependency to self-sufficiency."

A major factor in this success has been the sustained partnership between the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA), coupled with their alliance with 26 local community network throughout the state. The Governor's Office oversees implementation of the program.

Illinois' Welfare-to-Work Block Grant program began in February, 1998 as DCCA distributed $48 million to local communities. DHS contributed a $24.5 million match for a total investment of $72.5 million, to be distributed over three years. With this additional $45 million, DHS will also match with more than $22.5 million. These funds may be spent through 2002.

The funding will be used for a wide variety of purposes, including basic education and English as a Second language (ESL), occupational skills and on-the-job training, job placement and retention. Funds can also be used for services such as transportation, childcare, substance abuse treatment, financial counseling and domestic violence intervention.

"By all of us working together- employers, state and local governments and faith-based institutions- we have surpassed the federal government's requirement by placing more than 100,000 of our clients into jobs and getting them off the welfare roles," said DHS Secretary Howard A. Peters III. "We are all guided by the belief that welfare is not good enough for any family, and that children are always better off in a home where a responsible adult is working."

The Welfare-to-Work Block Grant program is aimed at helping the hardest to employ welfare recipients move to lasting, unsubsidized jobs. These are recipients who have been on welfare for several years with poor education, low skills and no job experience.

In addition to job training, job subsidies, job placement and support services, funds will also be used for an innovative Work Testing program. This new initiative provides a stepping stone for welfare clients who may experience difficulty adjusting to a work environment.

In the Work Testing program, an employer assesses a client during a 30-day test period. The employer is eligible for incentives during that 30-day period, then can decide whether to hire the client permanently after the test period. The client, meanwhile, acquires job readiness skills and counseling services.

The Welfare-to-Work Block Grant program emphasizes a close partnership with employers, enabling local communities to design employment and training programs tailor-made to the needs of individual employers. "The business community plays an important role in helping welfare recipients make the transition to work," DCCA Director Pam McDonough said. "The continued success of the program depends on companies that are willing to give employees with limited work experience a chance to prove themselves."

DHS and DCCA have also instituted joint monitoring and evaluation of the progress made by each Welfare-to-Work Block Grant recipient. These monthly meetings are attended by top management from both agencies. A reporting system measures progress made by each grantee in the areas of referrals, enrollments and initial placements. If a grantee experiences difficulty, field staff from both agencies follow up with the staff of both the Welfare-to-Work Block Grant grantee and the local DHS office.


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