Employment First is Nebraska's welfare reform program which helps families achieve economic self-sufficiency through job training, education, and employment preparation. Employment First assists people through the transition from welfare to the workforce.
In 1993, Gov. Ben Nelson appointed the Governor's Task Force on Welfare Reform. This group developed the framework for legislation that was passed in 1994. The former Department of Social Services (now the Department of Health and Human Services) was authorized to request federal waivers to implement the state's welfare reform. Waivers were obtained and in 1995 the Legislature passed LB 445.
On November 1, 1995, Employment First pilot projects began in Lancaster, Adams, Clay, Nuckolls, and Webster counties. For the purpose of evaluation, everyone who received an Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) cash payment and was able to work in Adams, Clay, Nuckolls, and Webster counties was subject to the Employment First provisions. Half of Lancaster County participants were subject to Employment First provisions and the other half received benefits as currently provided by the Aid to Dependent Children and Job Support program. The program went statewide on January 1, 1998.
Under Employment First, the person and his/her case manager develop what's called a self-sufficiency contract. The contract outlines the activities, services and responsibilities of the person and the State so that the person can achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Once an person is employed and has received cash assistance for at least three out of the last six months, the family is offered continued Medicaid coverage and child care subsidy payments. The Medicaid coverage is available to the family for up to12 months if the family's income doesn't exceed 185% of the federal poverty level. If the family's income is between 100% and 185% of the federal poverty level, the family may be required to pay a monthly premium that doesn't exceed 3% of the family income. Child care is available to the family if their income doesn't exceed 185% of the federal poverty level. The family is required to pay a portion of the child care costs based upon a sliding fee scale; the fee must not be more than 20% of the family income.
For more information, contact:
Betty Toelle, Program Manager
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Children and Family Services
P.O. Box 95026
Lincoln, NE 68509-5026
Phone: (402) 471-6661