On June 10th Grant Collins, Fedcap Senior Vice President of Workforce Development and Executive Director of WeCARE, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. The hearing, “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: The Means to Climbing the Economic Ladder,” is part of the committee’s two-year review of SNAP, in anticipation of potential reforms to the food stamp program in 2017-2018.
Grant provided committee members with an overview of the WeCARE (Wellness, Comprehensive Assessment Rehabilitation and Employment) program, which is administered by the NYC Human Resources Administration’s Customized Assistance Services. WeCARE addresses the needs of cash assistance clients with medical and/or mental health barriers to employment by providing assistance and services to help clients achieve their highest levels of self-sufficiency. Based on the outcome of a comprehensive assessment, case managers work with clients to develop a customized plan that connects them to a range of appropriate services.
Fedcap is the sole provider of WeCARE services in NYC, serving over 50,000 cash assistance clients annually. Over 485,000 clients have participated in WeCARE since the program was implemented in 2005.
“We at Fedcap are extremely proud of Grant’s appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture,” said Fedcap President and CEO Christine McMahon. “This speaks to Fedcap’s innovative approach to creating pathways to self-sufficiency for people with barriers, and the great work of Grant and his staff in managing the WeCARE program.”
In his testimony, Grant described WeCARE as consistent with participation and time limits requirements as defined by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF is a Federal Government program that provides block grants to states to assist needy families and help reduce dependency.
WeCARE is unique among TANF programs in its laser focus on workforce readiness training and job placement. In most public assistance programs clients who present a health claim for benefits are exempted from work requirements and /or helped to apply for federal disability benefits, rather than assisted in preparing for and finding a job. Under the WeCARE model, clients must complete an independent medical assessment as a condition of eligibility, with four possible assessment outcomes:
• Fully employable
• Employable with accommodation
• Temporarily unemployable; needing wellness or condition management
• Unable to work
Remarkably, in a population in which all of the 485,000+ clients who received assessments initially believed they were unable to work, 6 percent were determined to be fully employable, 44 percent were found to be able to work with an accommodation, and 33 percent were able to work subsequent to their medical conditions being stabilized. Only 17 percent were found to be unable to work. Of those found to be employable with accommodations, 95 percent have since worked, with 60 percent working 30 hours per week or more.
An innovative, holistic approach to job training, placement and the clinical environment drives the success of the WeCARE program. All WeCARE staff members participate in this jobs-driven process. So do program participants; in 2014 Fedcap averaged 192 job placements per month, including 90 placements that did not involve a staff job developer. These placements resulted from job leads generated by the participants themselves, who are trained – as a key element of becoming self-sufficient – to be their own job developers, and to take the lead in conducting their own job search.
In total, 2321 job placements were made in 2014, far exceeding the program’s goal of 145 placements per month.
The WeCARE program – the largest of its kind in the nation – also exemplifies best practices in case management in a comprehensive, multifaceted application of the case management model. Case managers in the program manage client wellness, vocational rehabilitation, employment and retention services, application for federal disability benefits and more – all under one roof. Committee members were keenly interested in this aspect of WeCARE, as comprehensive case management will likely be a key component of SNAP reform going forward.
In closing remarks, Grant told the committee that the success of the WeCARE program shows that with the right approach, individuals who are disengaged from the workforce can indeed achieve self-sufficiency as productive and valued employees.
“I believe that the first step on the path out of poverty is to know the dignity of work,” he said. “The WeCARE program shows that work and self-sufficiency are possible for far more people with barriers than previously thought.”