San Francisco’s Response to Welfare Reform Combines New Strategies, Initiatives, Ordinances
January 24, 2000
In October 1996, following the passage of the federal welfare reform legislation, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown formed a Welfare Reform Task Force to develop recommendations on how the City could best assist families affected by the new law. The 120 community representatives and 60 City staff representatives comprising this Task Force reflected the numerous, diverse constituencies for which San Francisco is so well known.
The Task Force’s 200-plus-page report, issued in May 1997, expressed the group’s serious concerns with welfare reform and contained an urgent appeal for a safety net for those facing a loss of support. It also contained an agenda for labor market changes needed to improve the economic prospects of the City’s lowest income residents. This report became the blueprint for San Francisco’s comprehensive response to welfare reform, elements of which include the following:
Based on public hearings
held concurrent with the meetings of the Welfare Reform Task Force,
the Mayor’s Office of Community Development determined that both
government and community organizations “must fundamentally change
the way we are doing business in order to achieve tangible and
meaningful community outcomes.” New community development principles
in support of workforce development were adopted – e.g., “support
integrated and comprehensive community services....strengthen
opportunities for employment” – and in 1998, the Office invited
organizations submitting proposals for Community Development Block
Grant funding to begin redesigning their programs and practices
consistent with these principles.
In 1999, the Office’s
request for proposals continued the emphasis on workforce development
and broadened the definition of eligible activities to include
“those that contribute to comprehensively preparing economically
disadvantaged individuals for employment, and/or supporting
individuals and/or their family members in making a successful
transition to employment.” This signaled that community
organizations could begin applying their CDBG funds to problems as
diverse as domestic violence, child and youth mental health, child
care and housing in an integrated manner that supported families
moving toward economic self-sufficiency.
The scope of the
cooperative working relationships among the City’s departments and
agencies is seen in the blending of nearly all employment and training
funds in a single fund administered by the Private Industry Council.
The City’s memorandum of understanding with the PIC encompasses
funds from the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids
(CalWORKs) program which replaced the State’s previous welfare
program, federal Welfare-to-Work grants, the Job Training Partnership
Act, and the City’s general fund.
Most of the funds expended
through the PIC are tied to performance benchmarks. A fixed contract
fee is paid in increments to service providers when a participant is
enrolled in training, completes training, is placed in a job paying at
least $6.50 per hour, remains in employment for 90 days, and remains
in employment for 180 days.
CalWORKs requires that, if
they are not working after the initial 18- to 24-month period of
eligibility, participants receiving assistance must be engaged in
community service. Concerned that this community service not take
place in a punitive, workfare-style program, the City created a pilot
project, the Community Jobs Initiative, in which the Department of
Human Services contracts with three nonprofit organizations to place
welfare recipients in transitional employment with government or
nonprofit agencies. With the PIC serving as the employer of record and
handling all payroll functions, the various funding streams involved,
including CalWORKs cash benefits, are converted into regular pay at
the State minimum wage. This enables participants to take advantage of
the Earned Income Tax Credit, which further supplements their income.
The Community Jobs
Initiative started in January 1999 and by July there were 50
participants. It will build to 200 participants and, if successful at
this level, will serve as the chief means of meeting the CalWORKs
community service requirement.
Enacted in 1998, the First
Source Hiring Ordinance was designed to help the City better
anticipate training needs and enhance job access for those frequently
not reached through traditional hiring efforts, including persons
eligible for services under JTPA and those at risk of relying on or
returning to public assistance.
An employer becomes
subject to the new ordinance when he or she enters into a contract
with the City for $350,000 or more in construction or $200,000 or more
in services. The first source hiring agreement between the City and
affected employers sets low income hiring and retention goals for
entry level positions and establishes an “exclusivity period”
during which economically disadvantaged individuals are given first
access to these positions. The length of the exclusivity period,
negotiated with each agreement, cannot exceed 10 days. If it is
determined that an entry level position has been improperly withheld
from the first source hiring process, a financial penalty must be paid
by the employer.
A First Source Hiring
Administration was established by the City to oversee implementation
of the ordinance; core members include the Mayor’s Directors of
Community Development, Economic Development and Human Services, the
President of the PIC, and representatives of other City departments
and government agencies.
Mayor Brown has noted that
“San Francisco’s coordinated, comprehensive and humane approach to
welfare reform has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of
families. We are proud that we have been able to build community
consensus and provide true exits from welfare and poverty.”
Additional information on San Francisco’s response to welfare reform is available from Pamela David at (415) 252-3100. Case studies of community development initiatives following welfare reform in San Francisco and three other cities are available from the National Community Development Association at www.ndcaonline.org/cdti