Aspects of Regional Social Governance
Welfare Reform in the US Implications for a Global Policy
Dr. George Tsobanoglou, Assistant Professor, BA, BA (Honors), MA,
PhD (Carleton), Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean, Mytilini, Lesvos, Greece and Chair,
International Sociological Association, RC # 26, Sociology Department, University of the Aegean,. Email:
and also Visiting Fellow (Oct. 2006/ Feb. 2007) at the University of Leeds,
Institute of Communication Studies, Leeds LS2-9J, United-Kingdom.
Given the nature of recent economic trends, workforce development
policies are necessary to combat unemployment among the poor and socially excluded. This is the general principle
behind recent policy initiatives in the U.S. such as «workfare» and Individual
Development Accounts (IDAs). These policies ideally deal with the negative effects of the new economy centered in
service industries, and more particularly, the mismatch of skills that has served to create a class of outsiders (a
rather «permanent underclass»). They do
this by facilitating the development of socially needed skills and social capital in the form of higher education,
property ownership, and personal savings, all of which are prerequisites for participation in the evolving
institutions of civil society and the «new» economy.
Perhaps the most astonishing developments in the US context are the
blurring of distinctions between social and economic skills, and between economic and social capital. For instance,
the provision of competitive medical and care services which require research and other associates activities have
become growth areas, as are quality of life investments in the working and general urban environments. Ironically,
the main concern of the Europeans’ that the welfare regimes are being disassembled in the US is in reality a turn
to a healthy dosage of an expanded and expanding social reproduction sphere aiming at the direct provision
of «services of
recuperation» or restoration. The
associated sports and kinetic culture enhance human activity and turn into important areas of commercial activity
such aspects of human reproduction as dietary habits and healthy lifestyles. Similarly, the displacement of workers from the
«industrial» sector or better the recomposition of business is met
with high quality educational services made possible by the development of a well operating regional
vocational educational system.
As the service industries become the leader in employment, welfare
to work programs gain significance. Technological innovation in vocational education (community colleges with
continuous training processes) are increasingly providing the skills necessary for such applications in industry,
while research and development activities implemented at universities is leading to key innovations in the
bio-medical, engineering and communication fields.
My main focus of this paper will be on the institutional context in
which the Local Partnership Organizations (LPOs) operate and on the role of the Federal Government in the U.S. As
we will see, related developments in the State of Michigan were key policy experiments that led to the overall
establishment of the welfare to workfare program in 1996. Several developments in the US are linked with social and
institutional innovations that started in that State. Available day of this program present an opportunity to
evaluate the prospects of social reform tied to wealth creation and socio-economic development.
State policy makers, both Democratic and Republican, typically
perceive that the most effective way to meet the new economic challenges is to improve the business environment.
States in the US compete at all levels for business, especially for «clean»
industries (or industries understood to contribute to overall quality of life).
Generally, the term «business
climate» refers to the perceived idea
that the State attracts and retains corporate actors by measures of tax incentives, overlooking at times
labor and environmental standards so as to allow greater profitability in order to be attractive to business.
New trends are being directed into designing policies that improve the conditions for profitability and job
creation involving also the not-for profit sector, the third sector.
The basic issue that seems to preoccupy the current level of US
Federal policy makers is to have a holistic approach to community development that has one clear focus: asset
formation at local level. Assets matter, provide an economic cushion and enable people to make investments in their
future. Local assets also provide a psychological orientation towards the future, one's children and having a stake
in one's community. Community stakeholders are the main issues that appear to govern recent economic governance
directives in the US.
According to the Corporation Enterprise Development (CFED) in the
· One-half of American Households have less than $1,000 in net financial assets.
· One-third of American households (60% of African American households) has zeroed or negative net
· Almost 40% of white children and 73% of African American children grow up in households with zero
or negative net financial assets.
· Up to 20% of All-American households don't have a checking or savings account.
Generally, the seemingly boundless prosperity of the past decade
has left some Americans behind. In 1998, one of eight Americans and almost one in five children were poor. This has
been defined as living on an income of less than about $17,000 a year in a family of four. Recent demographic and
social changes such, as the increase of women in laborforce, led households to an increase in child
There is a policy debate about the causes of poverty, unemployment
and social inequality. Socio-economic changes such as globalization, new technologies and the growth of
knowledge-based industries provide higher wages as well as the integration of populations with currently inadequate
or inappropriate skills.
Formerly excluded areas both geographically and socio-economically,
a matter that comes out of educational opportunities and social mobility bring about new conditions that define the
issues of poverty and exclusion. While wages of unskilled workers have declined, the salary differential between
men with and without a college degree has more than doubled since the early 1980s.
In terms of socio-cultural changes, single parent families seem to
be increasing dramatically which double income families appearing also to be on the increase. Such changes can
explain the rapid increase in child poverty and the income inequality among families due to the rise of female
participation in professional jobs. Single parent families have the majority of poor children. Childcare and
transportation are essential services for the eradication of some of the heaviest burdens for such
More than two-thirds of all mothers of pre-school children are now
in the workforce. Most poor mothers, who might once have relied on welfare, must now work. Quality childcare is
very important, but it is costly. Democrats have promised to expand childcare assistance by $21 billion over the
next five years.
The Republican policy is directed towards a stronger voluntary
sector and tries to enforce a moral-ethical economy. In education, the Federal Government provides 7% of the
nation's K-12 education bill. The so-called «categorical programs» take
a slice of the federal budget. Such programs serve the poor (Title I) and handicapped (special education)
students.Very few pennies do go on average students from the Federal Government.
For the purpose of this paper reference will be made only to
category Title I (poor children), as it relates directly to a social category, i.e. welfare policy.
Title I remains the biggest federal education program for grades
K-12, and costs about $8.4 billion a year. It is distributed to schools with high concentration of poor students.
Title I is a funding stream, not a program with a specific educational strategy. Schools and counties use the
funding in a variety of ways, and it is commingled with State and local programs and funds. A school needs to be
60% poor to qualify for a federal aid. At present, there are a number of problems associated with the burdensome
rules and regulations set by the Federal Government that lead to the formations of state bureaucracies utilizing as
much as 40% of the budget thus leaving local initiative on hold. Methodologies for evaluating the effect of the
program need to be set in place. (Tom Loveless and Diane Ravitch «Broken Promises. What the federal Government Can Do To
Improve American Education», The Brookings
Review, Spring 2000, Vol. 18 No.2.).
2. The State of Michigan
In Michigan, the institutional panoply in the social reform process
includes the Program «To Strengthen
Michigan Families» (TSMF). This is a
comprehensive Welfare reform program operated statewide by the Michigan Family Independence Agency (MFIA) from
October 1992 to September 1996. In October 1996 Michigan became one of the first States in the US to have certified
as complete its New welfare program under the rubric for a law that radically changed welfare policies and programs
in the US that is the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996.
The Act gave States wide discretion to manage the TANFs (Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families) in replacing the 65-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Because
Michigan's TANF program, the Family Independence Program (FOP) and TAM share most policies, their study offers
important insights into the future of welfare reform.
After four years of operations, TAM has consistently increased the
employment and earnings and reduced the welfare dependence, of families which were on welfare when the program
started in October 1992. The program has mixed results for families entering welfare after that date. Although TAM
reduced welfare dependents for all of those later welfare families, it increased employment only for those families
that entered welfare from October 1994, when the program implemented a number of internal policy
3. US Institutional Reforms.
The American Community Renewal and New Markets Empowerment Act is a
bi-partisan package that reflected the agreement between President Clinton and Speaker Hatter. The Senate expanded
additional bi-partisan initiatives that will provide more opportunities for economic recovery, resources to local
governments, improved access to new technology, more home ownership, and employability development. Such provisions
· (a). Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): In order to encourage wealth creation nationwide,
IDAs are special matched savings accounts which provide tax credits that will enable more working low-income
families to save, build wealth and enter the financial mainstream through the use of an innovative new financial
instrument. Because of their importance IDAs are further presented later on.
· (b). Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities: Fully funds Round II of the Urban/Rural Empowerment
Zones and Enterprise Communities program. Urban Empowerment Zones include Boston, Mass, Cincinnati, Oh. Gary/East
Chicago, East St. Louis, Illinois, Ironton, Oh. Columbus, Oh.
· (c). Rural Empowerment Zones include Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, Illinois (parts
of Alexander, Johnson, and Pulaski Counties), while a great number of Indian reservations falls under this
· (d). Low-Income Housing Tax credit: As an incentive to create more and better affordable rental
housing for low-income individuals, a tax credit is available to owners of rental properties that are rented to
low-income individuals and meet certain other requirements. The amount of low-income tax credits available in each
State is currently limited by an annual volume limit of $1.25 per State resident. The bill would immediately
increase the amount to $ 1.74 per state resident in 2001 and adjust subsequent increases to inflation.
· (e). Renewal Communities: Creates 50 Renewal Communities with targeted, pro-growth tax benefits,
regulatory relief, brownfields clean up, and homeownership opportunities (the Clinton/Hastert package includes 40
Renewal Communities). At least 20 percent of the communities identified must be located in rural areas.
Requirements for communities applying for Renewal Community status include high poverty rates and a local
commitment to reducing local regulations, zoning restrictions and tax rates. Each State will have one Renewal Community.
· (f). Charitable Choice Expansion: Expansion of the current charitable choice provisions in welfare
reform and Community Services Block grants. Allows charitable and faith-based organizations to compete for
contracts or participate in voucher programs on an equal basis with other private providers whenever a state
chooses to use non-governmental providers to deliver services to the poor. The provision preserves the religious
character of faith-based institutions, without diminishing the religious freedom of the beneficiaries.
· (g). The New Millenium Classrooms Act: To increase the amount of computers donated to schools,
libraries, seniors centers, and non profit vocational training centers in economically disadvantaged areas, the New
Millenium Classrooms Act would expand the parameters of the current tax deduction and add a tax credit.
Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) pose a unique alternative to
traditional anti-poverty programs by bringing into the market and the community those left behind. IDAs are a
federally exercised instrument of the social inclusion process. For this reason, it is worth to focus on the full
mechanics of this instrument.
An IDA is a matched savings account set up in the name of an
individual and restricted to high return investments such as post-secondary education, starting a business or
buying a home. IDAs are designed to increase savings and investments for primarily low-income families (typically
the working poor or welfare recipients). IDAs embody recognition of the fact that it is possible to escape poverty
through asset building. Community investors are secondary investors in that they match the savings of the
individual only after the individual has met the investment and learning commitments agreed upon.
An IDA account is established in local financial institutions under
a qualified individual's name. That individual must meet selection criteria, (the ethical qualities are important
criteria), complete a financial literacy course and maintain consistent monthly (usually 12 months to 24 months)
deposits (typically $20 to $50) into their account. Community investors then match the deposits of the individual
(typically 1:1 up to 4:1), and these community investments are held in a separate account. When the participant
meets the agreed upon goals, withdrawals are made from the individual and matching accounts to realize the savings,
for example, for home ownership, education or small business start-up.
IDAs are emerging as a tool to integrate low-income families into
the economy by helping them build assets. The process of family development,
community building, and neighbourhood revitalization begins with low-income earners themselves. Without assets,
poor families are likely to remain poor. Poor families can be empowered to own, not just owe. IDAs can begin to
endow low-income families with productive assets as part of a strategy to move them into the economic
At present, thirty-two States include IDAs in plans for using TANF
(Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds.Twenty-nine States have passed IDAs legislation for TANF recipients
and/or low-income citizens, including: Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Twelve states and Washington, D.C. have ADD
(American Dream Demonstration) sites (American Dream IDA Demonstration sites), including: Illinois (2
5. Community-based IDA
It is estimated that over three hundred-community-based IDAs
programs have been initiated or are in the planning stages in the US. There are non-profit organizations in at
least forty-six states running or planning IDAs programs - with and without State IDAs legislation.
All in all the IDAs Program is likely to be set within the
Department of Economic Development to encourage individuals at poverty level to establish individual savings
acounts. Funds in the account may be used to include costs of vocational training, post-secondary education, small
business creation, first time home-ownership as well as home improvement to a primary residence. Individual account
holders may deposit funds in the account, which will be matched at a specified ratio, which may vary in each State.
The ministry then is to solicit proposals from community development organizations, defined as not-for-profit
religious or charitable associations, to implement the program. Such proposals must include the requirement that
individual account holders make financial contributions to their accounts. These community development
organizations are also authorized to oversee the program's reserve fund, which is to be used for administrative
costs and matching funds. Matching funds are to be held in the reserve fund until distributed to a specified vendor
or service provider at the time of acquiring the account holder's chosen asset.
The former President Bill Clinton had this to say about
«As hard as they work, they
still don't have the opportunity to save. Too few can make use of IRA.'s and 401 (k) plans. We should do more to
help all working families save and accumulate wealth. That's the idea behind the Individual Development Accounts,
the IDAs. I ask you to take that idea to a new level, with new retirements savings accounts that enable every low
and moderate - income family in America to save for retirement, the first home, a medical emergency or a college
education. I propose to match their contributions, however small, dollar for dollar, every year they save. And I
propose to give a major new tax credit to any small business that will provide a meaningful pension to its workers.
Those people ought to have retirement as well as the rest of us».
Presidential State of the Union, 1999-2000.
Al Gore's social policy objective called «Retirement Savings Plus» was keen to the Universal Savings Account (USA) proposed by
former President Clinton to address the issue of partially privatized social security. The USA account is following
the method of IDAs. Families would deposit savings in voluntary individual retirement accounts, and the federal
government would deposit tax credit funds in their accounts based on the levels of savings deposits and family
income. The tax credit would be refundable so that even a family with no income taxability would receive the full
The federal grant phases out so that a couple making $100,000 would
receive only a $500 credit it made a $1,500 deposit a 1-for-3 match. The families could withdraw money earlier for
catastrophic medical expenses, college tuition or to buy a first home. Financial institutions would be restricted
to offer investment options based on broad-based mutual funds for equities, bonds and government
The refundable tax credits and the matches of funds are in inverse
relation to family income. The beneficiaries of the proposal would be low and moderate-income families. The plan
requires families to save in order to get government benefits. Saving is hard for low-income families but this is
the very essence of the new welfare to work process. (Gore's proposal leaves the Federal Insurance Contribution Act
(FICA of 1977) payroll tax at its current high levels. About 80% of households pay more in FICA payments that in
federal income taxes, and the FICA tax falls more heavily on low-and moderate-income families than on the wealthly
ones. IDAs also provide training for financial literacy within a life-long education fra,ework.
Other similar policy instruments include the American Community
Renewal and New Markets Empowerment Act (ACRNMEA). This represents a comprehensive Legislation that would create
economic incentives to invest in low-income communities, enhance educational and housing opportunities and help
low-income families save and invest for the future.
Senator Lieberman has been very active on the issue of building
assets via IDAs considering their nation-wide expansion of key importance for the empowerment of low income
Americans. It is the policy of inclusion that constitutes the real re-engineering aspects of this situation. The
existing legislation on IDAs for Michigan, Ohio and Illinois -as mentioned above- has been as follows:
· IDAs are included in the State welfare reform plan.
· Illinois passed IDA legislation at the end of the 1997-98 sessions. SB1350, «Individual
Development Accounts», was introduced by Senator Judith Myers and representative William Black. (To read the text
of the legislation pleases sees: http://www.legis.state.il.us/publicacts/ pubact90/acts/90-0783.html).
The legislation was advocated by the Women's Self-Employment
Project (WSEP), in Chicago, and created a statewide IDA as a pilot program. The pilot program has been being
administered by WSEP and implemented by the Illinois Community Action Association. WSEP communicates program
information to the agencies by scheduled conference calls, provides technical assistance, and produces reports to
the State. Several bills were introduced in the 1998 legislative session.
HB 4786 sponsored by Rep. Hubert Price was passed and signed into
law by the Governor. (Legislation is found in: http://184.108.40.206/
The Governor of Michigan included a line item in his budget
proposal for FY 2001. This provides $5 million dollars in surplus TANF funds for IDAs (June 21, 2000). The Family
Independence Agency, in collaboration with the Council of Michigan Foundations, will administer the statewide
program. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has proposed raising $5 million to match the State contribution.
Community based non-profits, chosen by RFP, will administer the program, in cooperation with Michigan's Community
Action Agency Association, and establish a funding pool for the account matches.
Uses include post-secondary education, small business start-ups and
building a principal residence. IDA legislation was passed in 1997. (Legislation is found in
The State Department of Human Services will oversee the county IDAs
programs and will collaborate with Ohio Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to pilot the demonstration. IDAs
may be established for home ownership, small business capitalization, or education. IDAs holders' income must be at
or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Contributions for matching funds are tax deductible while
interest earned is tax exempt for IDAs holders.
The IDAs Policy in the States of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio are as
· IDAs Legislation has been passed and State Supported Program Operating. (All in all there are 12
States in this scheme with matching funds with three with no matching funds.) Michigan has a Coalition Building in
States that have passed IDAs legislation. In Illinois, Michigan and Ohio Participant Eligibility requirements are
TANF or TANF eligible.
· In Michigan, the program «To Strengthen Michigan Families» (TAM) is a welfare reform program
operated statewide by the Michigan Family Independence Agency (MFIA) as referred to earlier. The evaluation the
TSMF introduced an expectation that adult welfare recipients must enter into a «Social Contract» under which they
agreed to engage in personally-and /or socially-useful activities for at least 20 hours/week;
· --TSMF allowed welfare clients to keep more of their grant while earning income on the
· --TSMF broadened AFDC (Families with Dependent Children) eligibility for two-parent families;
· --TSMF allowed AFDC children to earn and save without affecting program benefits.
These provisions were operative on October 1, 1992. Welfare reform
in Michigan continued to evolve building on the practices of the program, which led to additional TSMF provisions,
being implemented on October 1, 1994, upon approval by the Department of Health and Human Services.
A new requirement for job search and job placement was implemented
as a major employment strategy for AFDC applicants and recipients. MFIA and the Michigan Jobs Commission (MJC) -the
agency responsible for oversight of Michigan’s Job Training Partnership Act (MJTPA) programs- operated the new
program, called Work First and jointly strengthened the connection between the Social Contract and the MOST
Programs. The 1994 TSMF policies eliminated most current exemptions from participation in MOST, Michigan's
employment and training program for AFDC recipients.
All adult AFDC recipients who were not required to participate in
MOST under current exemption policy had to comply with the Social Contract: anyone not complying for 12 months was
enrolled in MOST and became subject to financial penalties for non compliance applying heavier financial sanctions
for noncompliance. Before October 1994, members of AFDC families who were mandated to participate in MOST and
failed to comply could be disqualified from the assistance grant; that is, the monthly AFDC check could be reduced
by an amount equal to that member's share.
After the interim TSMF policy changes of 1994, the sanction for an
individual's failure to comply with Work First and MOST requirements was 25 percent of the family's grant until the
individual complied. If the individual was non-compliant for a year, the entire family's AFDC case could be closed
until the individual complied with Work First requirements.
Allowing deductions for investments supporting self-employment,
TSMF allowed self-employed clients to include the purchase of capital assets and payments on business loans as
deducible business expenses when considering AFDC eligibility and benefits extending some of the AFDC policy
changes to the Food Stamp program (FSP). After October 1994, TSMF applied roughly equivalent rules regarding
sanctions, self-employment expenses, and vehicle exclusions to the FSP.
In brief, TSMF policies were instrumental in changing the culture
of dependence on welfare and providing employment and long-term financial independence. TSMF increased adult's
employment and earnings after four years, and increased the last group's employment by the end of the year. TSMF
reduced welfare participation as well as benefits for ongoing families and the middle group of families.
Adults in TSMF were generally more likely to combine work and
welfare, and less likely to remain on welfare without working. TSFM increased total family income for ongoing
families (The Evaluation of «To Strengthen
Michigan Families» Abt Associates Inc). The
future welfare reform in the TANF framework (TANF clients are required to find work within two years of receiving
assistance and States may not use TANF funds for assistance to individuals for more than five years over their
TSMF allowed AFDC children to earn and save without affecting
program benefits. The best welfare to workfare developments in the US have been those of the State of Michigan.
Workforce and economic development therefore are undoubtedly linked to welfare, social cohesion, poverty
alleviation and social inclusion policies in general. Michigan was the essential socio-political theater in the
1996 –welfare-to-workforce reform, which spread across the Mid-West, Northwest and the whole of the US.
Activities related to workforce development and those related to
economic development seem to be complex but are not distinct. It so seems that both the TSMF and the TANF programs
constitute social governance instruments.
The Federal to State and County partnerships are of paramount
importance, new technologies added-new dimension to work organization and had an immense impact on the creation of
new labor ecology. Labor is now more fluid in terms of its skill requirements. The new public administrative space
allows for continuous valuation of work places and the New Skill Requirements that ought to be both cheaper and
easier to apply. Training is the main antidote for exclusion, and it must be the main social policy focus.
Developments in the work environment, the city and the region are becoming knowledge-based environments that
provide workers with feed back on knowledge and vice versa. Thus, training should become specific but also general
and should be provided on a mass scale.
Community Colleges develop simulations of work places and attempt
to provide the link with production becoming part of a continuous work process in line with enterprises. This
process continuously defines those turned redundant at a point in the work process and may need to get re-trained.
The high job rotation and increased redundancies are the name of the situation that couples with increased mobility
produced by the TANF, IDA and TSMF programs.
Thus, welfare changes are becoming closer to social production
needs, since the new programs provide greater labor mobility. At the same time, asset building provides for the
social integration process. In a way, savings and asset building denote Education and Human Capital, both necessary
requirements of knowledge economy. The emergence of communal approaches to job re-training and constant upgrading
of standards denotes that the labor market is regulated by the State on a mass scale.
Special purpose accounts (IDAs) during the 1990’s became an
important element of welfare reform as expressed by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act of 1996 (PRWORA). This Act gave impetus to the setting up of IDAs by permitting States to use their TANF grants
to fund IDAs. Similarly, the Assets for Independence Act (Public Law 105-285, enacted in October 1998) provided
Federal funds for the operation of IDAs.
In this context, the State valorizes the market and expands by the
very undertaking of the socialization of the cost of reproduction of labor. The Aid for Families with Dependent
Children (AFDC) program offerred cash assistance to needy children in lone parent families. In 1996, it was
reformed as Temporary Aid for Needy families (TANF). The aim was to get AFDC recipients off welfare. The work
requirements in force under AFDC were tightened with a maximum period of support introduced (five
The block grant system of TANF has been of a rather competitive
nature, a matter that translates into higher mobility for recipients. At the same time, the States seem to bear the
full costs of any dollar spent on these programs. The IDAs are a novel component that aims to build local
micro-savings drawing on female led households with poor children. The matching of savings by the federal budget
stimulates female participation in the labor market and creates a new market for the non profits who must develop
day care and transport facilities to allow women access into the job market.
In this paper, I tried to delineate those acts and regulatory
frameworks that played a key role in the welfare reform in the US, which started out in Michigan among other
places, a reform that is responsible for the current state of affairs that associates workforce development with
(socio) economic development.
In this paper I focused on the significance of recent workforce
development trends in the US and Michigan by looking on the importance of social initiatives that lead to greater
workforce participation such as the family and children support schemes, for «social minorities»
that are in the core of the poverty trap. Such target groups with the successful
application of an asset-building program represents the real acid test for the success or failure of local
employment development programs. The key is to be found in the population category targeted. In Michigan I have had
a number of positive factors in the communities that led to their building social capital and social cohesion with
socio-economic development. Employability has been associated with asset building for poor families and minorities.
Unemployment remained the lowest in the US, and the State remained the highest foreign direct investment
destination in the US. It is such reforms that a European Social Policy at regional level could develop.
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