History of Texas Welfare Reform
Texas was one of the first states to reform its welfare system. In 1995, the Texas legislature passed landmark legislation, House Bill 1863, in anticipation of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). HB 1863 established time limits and work requirements for mandatory Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. HB 1863 also laid the foundation for the current Texas welfare, workforce development, and subsidized child care systems.
The changes legislated in HB 1863 and implemented over the next five years are in line with three overriding philosophies in Texas government: (1) local control; (2) smaller, more efficient government; and (3) an emphasis on work and individual responsibility. To meet these goals, Texas devolved to the local level management of more programs than most other states — including TANF Employment and Training (Choices), Workforce Investment Act, other workforce development programs, and child care. Texas has not, however, devolved TANF eligibility determination, benefits disbursement, or sanctions imposition, all of which remain centrally administered through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).
Under HB 1863, adult TANF recipients are subject to time-limited benefits as short as one year (for the most highly educated and job ready) followed by a five-year "freeze-out". A strong Work First message and the Full Family Sanction of all TANF cash benefits for noncompliance with work requirements has motivated many TANF applicants and recipients to seek employment. Welfare Reform in Texas enforces the importance of working, the temporary nature of public assistance, and the belief that parents are responsible for the care and well being of their families. Caseloads in the have dropped substantially since 1996, and as a result, Texas received more than $72.6 million in federal high-performance bonuses for effective welfare programs.
Workforce Development Division (WDD) is the Texas Workforce Commission division charged with continuing Texas' successful welfare reform by leading the development of workforce solutions that offers Texans the opportunity to achieve and sustain economic success. WDD achieves this mission by providing advanced data analysis, policy research, policy development, technical assistance, and building strategic partnerships.
We Accomplish Our Mission Through...
- Data Analysis - WDD staff regularly analyze a broad range of welfare data relating to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) performance, caseloads, and projections for legislative and executive/State leadership. This analysis identifies areas of success, challenges within the system, and informs policy development.
- Policy Research and Development - WDD staff provide state leaders and decision-makers with analysis and research of TANF and welfare reform issues, enabling them to set sound policies and to plan for efficient service delivery. WDD also produces reports and studies that effectively communicate agency positions and decisions to stakeholders.
- Technical Assistance and Training - WDD provides policy guidance and technical assistance training to State and local members of the Texas Workforce Network focusing on areas of emerging concern and transition. WDD is a recognized authority regarding welfare reform research, analysis, and policy development and staff frequently make presentations to national public policy organizations, legislative committees, and academic conferences.
- Building Strategic Partnerships - WDD is an integral part of numerous State-level coalitions, intra-agency workgroups, national "think tanks" and informal networks of individuals and organizations dealing with issues surrounding welfare reform. These valuable connections position WDD to be the primary source of welfare-related data and policy analysis in Texas.