Community Jobs (CJ) is one component of Washington State’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) “WorkFirst” system that combines waged work, a continuum of supports and mentoring for welfare recipients who are entering work.
CJ is the first program in the nation to provide comprehensive, paid work experience plus training opportunities for hard to employ TANF recipients. CJ builds participant work and life skills, while participants improve the quality of their communities through their work in community, government and tribal organizations. They are bus drivers, graphic artists, and teacher aides. Private non-profit partners provide participants with 20 hours of work, a paycheck– not a welfare check and one-on-one support and mentoring to resolve barriers to work.
Program participants remain in CJ up to nine months, long enough to gain both substantial work experience and an opportunity to deal with life situations beyond crisis management. Participants develop a platform for genuine job advancement and quality of life improvements after leaving CJ. Participants are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which along with Washington State’s $6.50/hr. minimum wage and a 50% earnings disregard, boosts participant income well above welfare grants.
CJ moves beyond convention and pursues quality through unique partnerships. CJ, administered by the State Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (CTED), operates in a distinctively different manner than the state welfare agency. While collaborating with state agency partners, CTED contracts with 17 consortia of private non-profits as partners not vendors, who create job sites, employ CJ participants, and provide them with intensive case management.
Strong communications networks among partners create feedback loops. Constant availability and access to technical assistance, site visits, an interactive discussion forum web site, a bi-monthly newsletter, regional trainings, and CJ training retreats identify and resolve problems, strengthen teamwork and encourage peer learning across the state.
CJ contracts are performance driven. A unique hybrid of work and performance pay points contract uses a per participant project management fee along with payments for meeting participant goals and benchmarks.
CJ emphasizes empowerment for program participants while promoting concrete outcomes. CJ uses individual assessments and development of Individual Development Plans (IDP) for achieving career and personal goals.
Quality standards are established and measured. Small caseloads, links to basic education and vocational training and worksite and participant surveys guarantee meaningful individualized service for participants.
CJ heightens job advancement opportunities. CJ promotes concurrent enrollment in community college classes, the Department of Labor’s Welfare-to-Work services, and other training opportunities that support participants’ future goals.
CJ relies on local innovation for successful quality outcomes. CJ programs are designed to fit their participants and local community, generating problem solving ingenuity and successful practices that can be shared statewide.
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