Our Commonwealth is stronger when low income parents who can work
receive the training and support they need to succeed in the workplace.
When parents earn enough to pay for basic necessities and provide for
their children that’s good for their families, it improves
their children’s prospects for long term success, and it
strengthens our overall economy.

We know what it takes to help low income parents succeed in the
workforce: access to affordable quality early education and care
because parents can’t leave their children home alone when
they go to work; a quality public transportation system that allows
people to get to work; and the education and job training that can
provide the skills and knowledge people need to reach their full
potential in the workforce.1
Two decades ago Massachusetts
reformed its welfare system to focus on providing more of these
supports to help low income parents to be able to get good jobs and
support their families.

Over the past fifteen years though, the state has cut funding for early
education and care and education and job training assistance. This
makes it harder for parents to improve their skills, get access to
affordable early education and care, and get and keep jobs that allow
them to support their families.2

State Resources for Job Training
and other Work Activities has
Decreased for TAFDC Clients

The Employment Services Program is the primary program providing
education, training and job skills services for Transitional Aid to
Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) clients.3
provided to clients include:

  • Competitive Integrated
    Employment Services – which provides short term skills
    training, job development and placement;

  • The Young Parents Program
    – which provides high school or diploma programs for pregnant
    of parenting teens;

  • The DTA Works Program
    – which provides 24 week internships in government offices
    – primarily at DTA;

  • The Massachusetts Office of
    Refugees and Immigrants – which provides assessment and job
    placements services to non-English and non-Spanish speaking clients;

  • Funding to help clients take
    the HiSET test (a high school equivalency test).

For more information on the Employment Services Program, see the
MassBudget Children’s Budget.

Between FY 2001 and FY 2015, spending on these supports was
cut by
$41.9 million a 78 percent decrease (after adjusting for inflation).4


*In FY 2002, funding from two different accounts, both largely
supporting TAFDC clients, was combined.

In Massachusetts, funding for the employment services program has long
lagged what other states spend on work-related activities for clients
receiving TANF. In FY 2013, we spent a lower percentage of our TAFDC
dollars on job training and work activities than any other state
– just 1 percent of the available TAFDC dollars. 5

State Resources for Early
Education and Care has Decreased

Massachusetts spends over a quarter of its TANF dollars on early
education and care.6
However, even with that funding, overall
support for early education and care has fallen 24 percent, a cut of
$169.5 million since 2001, resulting in many children being put on a
wait list. Although eligible TAFDC clients receive early education and
care without being put on a waiting list, they can lose their subsidy
and be added to the wait list within a year of leaving TAFDC, even if
they still meet income eligibility requirements. Losing early education
and care can jeopardize a parent’s ability to continue
working, potentially pushing a family back on TAFDC (if they have not
expended their eligible time limit), utilizing another public program,
or becoming homeless or worse.


Children & Families Not
Necessarily Better Off after Leaving

In Massachusetts, the number of families and children
receiving TAFDC
support has dropped significantly in the last fifteen years to
approximately 40,500 in December 2014 from 103,600 in
A reduction in the caseload is sometimes used as a
measure of success for TAFDC. However, reductions in the caseload do
not tell us what is most important – whether families are
successfully leaving TAFDC to jobs that allow parents to support their

If families were leaving TAFDC because the parents in these
were getting good jobs, we would likely see a drop in poverty. But the
number of families and children in poverty has not decreased in
Massachusetts. The poverty rate for a family of three is defined as
having income under $19,530 annually. In 2013, approximately 16 percent
(223,000) children were poor, more than at any other point in the last
fifteen years.8
In 1990, around 13 percent of children in the
state were poor, close to 173,000 children.9


A successful program would decrease the number of families
living in
poverty, not just decrease the number of families who receive help
through TAFDC. In Massachusetts, we are only accomplishing the latter.
A much smaller share of families in poverty receive TAFDC support than
before welfare reform – 92 out-of 100 families in poverty in
1994-95 compared to just 41 out-of 100 families in poverty in
And we have reduced funding for early education and
care and job training while allowing our public transportation system
to deteriorate. Without these supports it is harder for low income
parents to get and keep jobs that allow them to support their families
and improve their children’s prospects for long term success.


TAFDC Funding and the Work
Participation Rate

The federal government provides funding for welfare programs through
the TANF block grant. In Massachusetts, this funding goes to many
programs and services that directly support low income families in
Massachusetts. To receive all of the federal funding, states are
required to comply with a measure called the Work Participation Rate.
This requirement focuses on participation in a limited number of
activities rather than on long term outcomes. The requirement does not
fully consider the diversity of needs facing TAFDC clients. And, it
only counts participation by current TAFDC clients failing to track the
most important outcome – whether clients who leave TAFDC are
leaving to jobs that allow them to support their family.

Moving Families Forward: Better
Opportunities for Massachusetts to
Support Low Income Families

Child poverty is rising. This is partly the result of national economic
trends, but at the same time, support for child care, education and job
training have declined for low income families. And we are all
depending on an aging transportation infrastructure struggling to meet
the needs of working people. These trends are troubling, but they also
provide insight into how we can help lower income families get and keep
family supporting and economy boosting jobs: by providing subsidized
child care which allows low income parents to work and contribute to
the overall economy, by providing transportation infrastructure so that
parents can reliably get to work; and by providing education and job
training programs which prepare parents to enter and stay in the

In Massachusetts, there are programs that help parents get family
supporting jobs. For example, Career Pathway programs, which more
closely link education and training programs to employer needs, have
already helped many low income parents in Massachusetts.11 The
DTA Works Program, one current part of the Employment Services Program,
places clients in internships at government agencies. DTA Works pays a
small weekly stipend to clients and provides them with work experience.
Preparing low income parents to get and keep good jobs helps them and
their family. And when we help low income families contribute more to
the economy, it helps all of us by providing our state economy with the
boost it needs to grow stronger.

H. & Walker, C., (2014, July). Child Care
Assistance: Helping Parents Work and Children Succeed; Blumenberg, E.,
& Waller, M. (2003). The long journey to work: a federal
transportation policy for working families.

from those who are disabled or caring for a disabled
child, parents must meet basic work or training requirements to receive
cash assistance via TAFDC, and they are only eligible for a limited
period of time.

is the primary welfare program providing support to
low-income families in Massachusetts.

funding and spending data in this brief are adjusted for
inflation to FY 2015 dollars,

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

a more detailed accounting of Massachusetts TANF
spending, see “Funding for the TANF Program in Massachusetts:
A look at Revenue and Spending on Supports for Low-Income

Department of Transitional Assistance: for
December 2014, see,
for 1994-95, see; See also See
Pamela J. Loprest, “How Has the TANF Caseload Changed over Time?” Urban
Institute, available at

COUNT data center from,868,867,133/any/321,322;
for poverty guidelines, see U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, “The 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines,” available at Poverty data 2000-2004
collected by the Population Reference Bureau from the Census Bureau’s
Web Data Server.

data collected by Population Reference Bureau from
Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken,
Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use
Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota, 2010.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

Crittenton Women’s Union at; For
more information about Career Pathway programs around the country, see
Clasp at

Scroll to Top

Get news from Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center in your inbox.

Select list(s) to subscribe to

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 1 State Street, Boston, MA, 02109, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact