Vice President Gore will announce today that federal agencies have hired 14,028 welfare recipients through a "welfare-to-work" initiative, exceeding the program's goal.
And the welfare hires have been almost twice as likely to stay in government jobs than other federal employees, according to a progress report that Gore will present to President Clinton.
Sixty-nine percent of the government's welfare recruits were still working in their federal jobs after one year of employment, while only 37 percent of non-welfare hires in similar jobs at similar pay remained in government employment, the report says.
In the report, provided by administration officials who asked not to be identified, Gore writes that welfare hiring programs "not only help meet labor needs but decrease costly employee turnover. Clearly, employer investments in their work force pay off for both employers and employees."
The notion of recruiting welfare recipients for the civil service encountered substantial skepticism two years ago when Clinton announced the initiative, which he hoped would serve as a model for the nation's effort to move welfare recipients into the work force.
Clinton and Gore pledged then that the federal government would do its fair share by hiring 10,000 welfare recipients by 2000. The announcement came after a round of budget and staff cuts that had helped reduce the number of clerical and other entry-level jobs at federal agencies.
Some personnel officials privately expressed doubt about the caliber of welfare hires, saying many agencies needed to hire employees with skills that required some college or technical training.
The government met its 10,000 target in April and has exceeded it since then. Administration officials said Gore repeatedly pushed Cabinet and major agency heads to pay attention to the welfare initiative. "He keeps the pressure on," one official said.
Gore, who touts his policy credentials on the presidential campaign trail, will issue his report at a White House event today. Gore, who held a similar event last year, will be joined by former welfare recipients who are pursuing federal careers.
According to Gore's report, many of the government's welfare hires hold jobs paying less than $23,000 a year, including such positions as clerk, food service worker, census enumerator and auto and truck driver.
Welfare recipients have been hired to work in virtually every corner of the bureaucracy, with four out of five employed at federal facilities outside the Washington area. Areas of employment range from the Defense Department, which hired 2,634 welfare recipients, to the White House, which hired eight.
Other departments with large numbers of hires include Treasury, with 1,870; Veterans Affairs, 1,380; and Commerce, 4,953. Many of the Commerce hires are for temporary positions needed because of the 2000 census. Gore's report suggests the Census Bureau could eventually employ at least 10,000 welfare recipients as enumerators, crew chiefs and clerks for the population tally.
The report, based on Office of Personnel Management research, also shows that the government has put considerable muscle into providing professional support to the welfare hires.
For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development developed training programs on more than 30 topics, such as proofreading, telephone techniques, public speaking and computer skills. The Navy's Human Resources Service Center designed a 300-hour computer training program for welfare hires, and the Food and Drug Administration followed up basic orientation with an eight-day "workplace survival" course, the report said.
The National Institutes of Health has helped prepare welfare recipients to take the government's standard exam for clerical jobs through a preparatory class developed with Montgomery County and Montgomery College officials. The report said that 58 percent of class enrollees passed the test, compared with the average pass rate of 26 percent. Eight students accepted permanent jobs with the federal government and 25 others went to work for local government agencies and private companies, the report said.
A number of federal agencies have provided their former welfare recipients with transportation and child care subsidies, scholarships and flexible work schedules. Some agencies also have set up development programs so that welfare hires can move into mid-level positions with better pay.
The government's ability to retain 69 percent of its welfare hires after a year of employment "is pretty impressive," said Gordon Berlin, senior vice president at the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., a nonpartisan social policy research organization.
Federal jobs offer health care and other benefits and pay more than than the $8,000 to $10,000 salaries of many private-sector jobs available to people on welfare, Berlin said. The job training opportunities offered by federal agencies signal that "they did a lot of prep work" aimed at providing support for their welfare hires, he said.