TOMMY G. THOMPSON
For Immediate Release: Sept. 2, 1999
Contact: Darrin Schmitz (608) 266-9806
Heidi Kafura (608) 264-6811
WISCONSIN WORKS REACHES MILESTONE
Anniversary marked by award recognition and historic low for caseloads
MADISON On the second anniversary of the Wisconsin Works (W-2) program, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson today announced that the total W-2 caseload dropped below 8,000, marking the lowest caseload on record in 64 years of welfare in Wisconsin.
In addition, the W-2 program earned national recognition during the week of its two-year anniversary when it was selected as a finalist in Harvard Universitys Ford Foundations Innovations in American Government Award program. W-2 is being honored as one of the top 25 government initiatives that is succeeding by using an innovative and creative approach to tackle a tough issue.
Gov. Thompson said the news confirms that W-2 is working and leading more families to self-sufficiency.
"W-2 has been a remarkably successful hand-up for thousands of Wisconsin families, helping people achieve independence and self-sufficiency through work," Gov. Thompson said. "The fundamental principle of W-2 is to help people succeed. And while we have been tremendously successful at reforming a failed welfare system, we will continue working hard to ensure the remaining families find success as well."
The latest figures show the W-2 cash assistance caseload dropped to a record 7,924 families in June a 77 percent reduction from the inception of W-2 on September 1, 1997, and a 92 percent drop from the January 1987 caseload level of 98,295 when the governor first began his efforts to reform the failed welfare system.
During the last two years, more than 24,000 adults have entered the workforce through the W-2 program, with average starting wages of $7.42 an hour, which exceeds the minimum wage by more than $2.00.
Gov. Thompson said the strength of W-2 is its emphasis on work, and credits the flexibility of the program, which provides the job training and support to help families achieve that self-sufficiency. He said this flexibility is very important and will allow it to evolve into a stronger program as the state works to help the most challenged families achieve independence through work.
In addition to cash assistance, W-2 offers participants support through health care, child care, transportation, education, job training, and individual case management services at higher levels than under the old welfare system. Overall, the total June caseloads those receiving cash assistance coupled with people receiving support services was 11,452 is also the lowest number on record in 64 years of welfare in Wisconsin.
Building on the success and innovation of programs like W-2, Gov. Thompson recently launched the BadgerCare program, which will ensure that working families get the health insurance they need as they climb the economic ladder out of poverty. The governors 1999-2001 state budget also includes more than $390 million in child care spending, an increase of more than $14 million. Since 1987, the governor has increased child care subsidy funding from $11 million to $177 million for low-income families.
Wisconsin Works was the nations first work-based assistance plan to replace the one-size-fits-all Aid to Families with Dependent Children welfare system. Wisconsin Works has become a model for other states and the federal government. W-2 has become a model for state and international governments who have visited Wisconsin to learn more about the policies and practices of the landmark program.
"Wisconsin Works is a great example of how government can work to improve lives and the standard of living through innovation, flexibility, and by creating strong partnerships between the public and private sector," Gov. Thompson said.
This fall, Wisconsin will use the $20,000 grant from the Innovations Award to support a W-2 best practices conference on September 29-30 in Milwaukee. The conference, "Partnerships & Innovations in Welfare Reform," will highlight policies and ideas that have contributed to the success of W-2 and the importance of maintaining and building new partnerships with the public and private sector to help people get off welfare and into self-supporting employment.
The event will focus on successful public-private partnerships involving employers, educators, and program service providers that have helped people move from welfare to self-sufficiency. The event will be a forum to showcase the partnerships and activities within the program that deserve replication.
Gov. Thompson praised Wisconsin businesses that are hiring W-2 participants and the state labor unions that are recruiting from this new pool of workers, yet expressed the need to build new partnerships.
"We will build new partnerships with the business community to help more people move off welfare and to help those who have moved from welfare to work stay in the workforce and advance up the job ladder," Gov. Thompson said. "Successful work and training models can be a new and compelling tool for meeting Wisconsins critical labor shortage.
Cash Assistance Cases
|July 1998||Since W-2 Sept. 1997||Since January 1987|
|Cases||% Reduction||Cases||% Reduction||Cases|
Gov. Thompson also reported the following measurements of success: