Fueled by a strong economy and passage of the 1996 federal welfare law, which imposed new work requirements and time limits on cash benefits, welfare caseloads declined precipitously during the 1990s. Between 1993 and 2000, the number of families on welfare dropped 56 percent nationally, with individual states experiencing reductions ranging from 20 percent to more than 90 percent. Yet more than two million families were on welfare at the end of this period, and many others had replaced welfare with employment that later dried up or had left the rolls without any other source of income.
As states consider how to deal with families who reach welfare time limits or do not receive welfare but have no other means of support, it is essential to find out who the hard-to-employ are and what services can help them find and keep jobs. Led by MDRC in collaboration with several partners, Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ was the first comprehensive attempt to understand this diverse low-income population and to test interventions aimed at the most common barriers to their employment.