Vermont’s ‘welfare-to-work’ limits show early success

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

Vermont last year began limiting how long its residents could receive welfare benefits. Six months later, the move appears successful.

The ‘Reach Up’ initiative has already received fewer requests to join the program than in months’ past, according to the Vermont Department of Finance and Management.

The new time-limit on the program, now at the federal standard of five years, was decried by critics as a cruel method of

LIMIT: Vermont’s time limits on ‘welfare-to-work’ programs seems to be working in its early stages.

LIMIT: Vermont’s time limits on ‘welfare-to-work’ programs seems to be working in its early stages.

ridding the system of welfare recipients, but it has at least shown moderate success in returning people to the workforce.

“Anecdotally, we are hearing from our staff that the time limit … is contributing to people leaving the program early because they know they’re going to have to get off,” Department of Children and Families Commissioner David Yacovone told reporters in Montpelier on Monday. ”You know that old saying, There’s nothing like a deadline.”

In 2013, 6,500 households were getting ‘Reach Up’ payments from the state. That number is now about 6,300, according to Yacovone.

Since the time limit went into effect July 1, unemployment has dipped by a few thousand.

In July 2013, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent but fell to 4.4 percent by November, the last calculation thus far.

This would seem to indicate a positive reform on the part of Vermont’s agencies, unless the figures mean people are dropping out of the work force altogether, which is unlikely according to the officials at the Department of Finance and Management.

The next state unemployment figures won’t be released until Jan. 28.

The 2013 evaluation report of ‘Reach Up,’ written by Yacovone, recommended boosting funding for the program, along with changing some standards that would allow greater flexibility for families in need. A new report is due by the end of the month.

Yaël is a national reporter for Watchdog.org. Reach him by email at yael@watchdog.org and follow him @YaelOss.