News Releases
Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Washington awarded $22.7 million welfare-to-work grant for WorkFirst

OLYMPIA--Washington has been awarded $22.7 million in federal funds to assist its successful WorkFirst program move people off public assistance and into jobs, Gov. Gary Locke announced today.

Locke, along with Vice President Al Gore and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, made the announcement. The money is intended to help welfare recipients with particularly difficult barriers to employment. Most of the grant will go directly to community-based programs for local services.

"We will get these resources out to communities quickly," said Locke. "This effort will help the WorkFirst partnership of business, government and communities build on the success we've seen during the first year of the effort."

Eighty-five percent of the $22.7 million in federal funds will go directly to communities via the state's 12 Private Industry Councils. These councils are part of the Job Training Partnership Act service delivery system, which has a long track record in employing and training welfare recipients and other people in need of assistance.

Locke lauded the efforts thus far of the interagency team he has put in place to lead the WorkFirst effort. At the same time, he stressed the urgent need to speed up progress.

"The clock is running for many of those receiving benefits," Locke said, referring to the five-year, lifetime limit on receiving benefits. "We need to pull out all the stops to help them move into jobs."

In anticipation of the grant, the governor included the JTPA service providers as partners in the local planning for WorkFirst. This early involvement of communities helps ensure the new money will fully complement the state's WorkFirst program. The grant is a one-year allocation, but can be spent over a three-year period. Congressional funding for additional years is possible.

"Our economy is the strongest it's been in a generation, and welfare caseloads have dropped by 5.2 million since the beginning of this administration. But those left on the welfare rolls with multiple barriers to employment need our help," said Vice President Gore.

"The goal is not just to get the job, but to keep the job," said Herman. "This grant will help long-term welfare recipients to become Washington's newest workers and help them become self-sufficient."

The early success of the WorkFirst program has provided some savings to cover the state's required contribution for the grant. These funds will be used to support WorkFirst services.

Through the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the WorkFirst program has seen a nearly 80 percent increase in the number of welfare recipients finding employment compared to the same period a year before under the JOBS program.

» Return to this month's News Releases
» View News Release Archive

Access Washington