Over the past decade, America has witnessed a significant overhaul of the welfare system, a system deemed by many as being destructive to individuals and families all across America.  One of the early leaders in that movement was Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin. During the 1990s, he worked diligently to completely overhaul Wisconsin’s welfare system.  Wisconsin became the first state to institute work requirements for welfare recipients, basing this move on the philosophy that idleness and dependency are harmful to the recipient and his/her family.  Assisting in this reform was Sagamore’s President Jay F. Hein who served as a welfare policy advisor to the governor.  Based upon his experience in Wisconsin, Hein is writing a book on the Wisconsin model and its influence on the 1990s national reform debate and its potential replication in Europe.

Welfare reform experts agree that reform is only successful when low-income individuals move from the welfare rolls to sustainable employment.  Consequently, it is critical that government and business leaders understand the importance of workforce development in assisting the transition of individuals from welfare to work.  To address these complex issues, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation funded a Sagamore project, the Benefits Access Learning Cluster, under the direction of Senior Fellow April Kaplan.  This project aimed to identify effective employer-based models for raising awareness of and participation in work-support programs and to develop and disseminate knowledge about “best practices.”

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Sagamore Institute

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