Advocating for Welfare to Work: Community Jobs

Community Jobs is an innovative public-private partnership serving “hard-to-employ” individuals on TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families). Community Jobs promotes work in the community, skill building and livable wage employment. The program is the only one of its kind in the nation which provides welfare recipients with paychecks for their work in the public and nonprofit sectors, training, intensive case management, and work towards permanent economic self-sufficiency. Community Jobs creates a ladder out of poverty for very low income people.

Community Jobs (CJ) is a program administered by the Washington State Department of  Community, Trade, and Economic Development (CTED). CJ contracts with private non-profit agencies to offer nine months’ work with local governments or nonprofit organizations, and intensive supportive case management. CJ participants work at least 20 hours per week at the state minimum wage. Community Jobs participants are also eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Currently the five lead CJ contractors are based in Spokane, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma and Aberdeen, covering urban and rural areas on both sides of the Cascades. The lead contractor work with other service providers to form consortiums in each area to reach a wide range of eligible individuals, to create a broad range of work opportunities, and to offer a continuum of services.

Community Jobs has received initial funding to serve 540 participants. Welfare reinvestment funds have been committed to expand the program to 6 – 9 additional sites, serving a total of 2500 individuals by January 1, 2000.

The Role of the Economic Opportunity Institute

The Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) has worked over the past year in concert with CTED to design and implement the Community Jobs program. EOI has both collaborated with and, when necessary, challenged CTED and the Department of Social and Health  Services (DSHS) in the implementation process. Our goal is to insure that Community  Jobs works for TANF participants as a vehicle to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

We continually push to make Community Jobs a work program, not a workfare program.  Our vision is a Community Jobs program which enables a TANF-qualified individual to:

  1. Earn a paycheck for hours of work,
  2. Step onto and move up a job ladder to economic self-sufficiency and steady employment, and
  3. Begin a structured movement from poverty toward a decent standard of living.
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