Gathering relevant and up-to-date information is an important step in job access planning. Individual communities will have different perspectives on target population members.
Listed below are three different definitions and associated characteristics for welfare reform program beneficiaries:
- Welfare to Work Recipients - The head of a household participating in a TANF welfare-to-work program. Generally, these individuals will have children, are single parents, are more likely to be transit-dependent than the general population, and are not currently employed. As a condition for receiving cash assistance, the participant works a minimum of 20 hours per week.1 Adequate transportation options may be crucial for these individuals to fulfill their work obligation, and for TANF agencies to meet job placement goals.
- Other Public Assistance Program Participants - Participants in the Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Childcare programs. A much broader range of individuals participate in these programs, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and the unemployed. The subsets of program participants that are in the work force have a similar economic profile to welfare recipients, and similarly, tend to be transit-dependent.
Two important distinctions should be noted between these individuals and Welfare to Work (TANF) recipients:
- Many Food Stamp and Medicaid recipients are already participating in the work force. Some states have linked food stamp benefits with TANF, while others have separated the eligibility for the two programs. All states, however, provide food stamps to working individuals at least during a transition period. Similarly, Medicaid is provided to households participating in the workforce, but who are designated as low-income or require special medical needs.
- Participation in the Food Stamp or Medicaid programs generally does not require the participant to actively seek a job, to develop a job plan or report to an employment counselor. Because these individuals may already be employed, or are not required to enter the labor force, improving transportation options is not integrally linked to their economic well being or to the demands on Food Stamp or Medicaid program administrators. Improved access to jobs will benefit this population by offering additional opportunity, but the benefit is unknown.
- Low-Income Households - Any household whose annual income is below one of several thresholds indexed to the Federal poverty level (calculated each year, by household size, by the U.S. Department of Labor). Definitions of "low-income" generally include both those households under the poverty line and those near the poverty line. The more inclusive thresholds go as high as 200% of the poverty level, while less inclusive thresholds may approach the poverty line (100% of the poverty level).
1999 Federal Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
|Number in Family
||Gross Monthly Income*
||Gross Yearly Income
||Approximate Hourly Income**|
The table below shows the poverty threshold used by several Federal programs for a single parent family of three. State program standards are likely to differ from the Federal standards. Planners should investigate what thresholds are used by agencies in their state.
Poverty Threshold for Single Parent Family of Three
||Poverty Threshold (as % of Federal Poverty Level)
||Gross Yearly Income
||Approximate Hourly Income*|
|Department of Laborís Welfare-to-Work Program
|FTA Job Access & Reverse Commute Program
|*Assumes a full-time job a full year (2,080 hours).|
Low-income households include both households that are headed by individuals in the labor force and individuals not in the labor force. Regardless of labor force participation, low-income households have a much higher rate of transit-dependency than the general population.2
Without commensurate transit infrastructure, transit-dependency results in under-employment for low-income households, and limits employers' access to labor.
In some states and some situations more than 20 hours is required. Work can, in many instances, include job training or education, or a combination of jobs and training. 2
In 1995, an estimated 26% of low-income households had access to no vehicles, compared with 4% of the general population, Daily Travel by Persons with Low Income, Murakami, Young, Presented at NPTS Symposium, October 29-31, 1997.