Welfare-to-Work Resources Pooled through Joint Powers Agreement

Minneapolis and Hennepin County adopted a welfare-to-work joint powers agreement to guide their implementation of employment and training services under welfare reform and their administration of $23 million in funding. In the City and County, a McKnight Foundation grant supports seven community-based networks which ease the transition from welfare to work through child care, transportation and other support services, including funds to help job seekers and newly employed workers meet work-related financial needs.

In 1997, the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County entered into a welfare-to-work joint powers agreement which established a mechanism for cooperative development and implementation of employment and training services under welfare reform. Through this mechanism, the City and County have pooled their resources and empowered a five-member joint staff board to make all funding recommendations. The resources come from Hennepin County Welfare Innovations and Strategies for Employment, the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the federal Welfare-to-Work program, and other public and private agencies. In all, $23 million from multiple funding sources are being administered through this joint effort, funds that otherwise would have been administered by the City and County using separate processes and with little or no consultation.

The City-County Partnership Committee (the joint staff board) is responsible for budgeting, planning, implementing, overseeing and making recommendations to the County and the City for employment and training services for welfare recipients. County members are the Assistant County Administrator for Community Services, the Director of Economic Assistance and the Director of Training and Employment Assistance. City members are the Director of Neighborhood Services and the Director of the Employment and Training Program.

Meeting every two weeks, the Partnership Committee maintains overall responsibility for the operation of employment and training services using County, State and federal welfare program funds, transportation funds, and other funds appropriate to carrying out its responsibilities; programs actually are operated through the County and City employment and training programs. The Partnership also is responsible for liaison with State agencies, development of service delivery policies, identification of gaps and new strategies, coordination with Private Industry Councils, committee appointments and liaison with the City and County local elected officials.

County Responsibilities – Hennepin County is responsible for:

  • overseeing the implementation of the "request for proposal" process which is used to select vendors to deliver employment and training services;
  • coordinating the review process for proposal respondents, which includes representatives from the City and County staffs and members from each of the private industry councils;
  • development, implementation and ongoing maintenance of an on-line management information system;
  • playing the lead role in monitoring state and federal legislative changes;
  • limited monitoring of vendor contracts, in addition to that done by the City, which has principal responsibility for this function;

Other tasks assigned to the County include external and internal communications; management information system workflow; installation, maintenance and training for hardware and software; volunteer coordination; and outcome evaluations.

City Responsibilities – Minneapolis is responsible for:

  • designating a contract manager to provide technical assistance to vendors, as needed, to ensure their compliance with all contractual requirements and to enhance their performance and the program outcomes;
  • contract monitoring, including invoice review, outcome evaluation and on-site visits; the City will immediately inform the County of a vendor’s default so that the County can determine what action to take regarding the contract;
  • reviewing all vendor claims for payments, approving those properly submitted and forwarding them to the County for payment.

Other tasks performed by the City include training and providing information through a newsletter for staff and vendors; monitoring state program contracts and performing onsite reviews, desk audits, special audits and fraud investigations; and handling vendor complaints and grievances.

"City and county elected officials, along with our staffs, are working hand-in-hand to improve the potential for all families to fully share in the social and economic opportunities of the community," says Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. "I am proud of this partnership. It is evidence that while local units of government have their own issues and responsibilities, they can work together and problem-solve."

Hennepin County Board Chair Randy Johnson concurs. "County and City staff are working very well together to manage the day-to-day operations of this massive shift in welfare programming," he says, "while policy makers are cooperating to provide direction and vision to the process."

Programs Administered through Agreement

Welfare Innovations and Solutions for Employment – The WISE program is an example of an initiative administered under the joint powers agreement. Hennepin County made $1 million in local tax revenues available for the program. The City and County issued two requests for proposals, inviting local agencies to apply to this research and development fund for welfare reform. The first RFP solicited proposals which would demonstrate that welfare-to-work strategies are cost effective and have a high potential for placing people in well-paying employment leading to self-sufficiency. Proposals had to demonstrate a significant commitment by area employers and assure that successful WISE program completers would have a job at the end of the program. The second RFP was intended to add to the employment and training services already funded. It was designed to assist employment and training providers to help family heads who are coming off public assistance, and to demonstrate new and effective strategies to overcome barriers to employment. Applicants were expected to recruit family caretakers from the 18 agencies that provide employment and training services through the Statewide Minnesota Family Investment program. The applicants were to develop strategies to overcome barriers by enlisting the support of partners or employers, increasing local and neighborhood resources, or modifying a current program to be more accessible to a certain group.

McKnight Foundation – The Foundation committed up to $20 million over a two-year period for a statewide initiative to encourage creative, cooperative solutions to the challenges posed by welfare reform in Minnesota. The Foundation used the City-County collaboration to initiate the community-based planning process that would establish community-based networks to ease the transition from welfare to work. The planning process resulted in the creation of seven networks and produced $3 million in funding from the Foundation. The networks and the McKnight-funded agencies are now working in cooperation with the 18 employment and training service providers funded by the array of welfare-to-work resources under the auspices of the City-County Partnership. Each serves a different geographic area and provides a mix of services appropriate to the needs of the community served. The services provided include child care, transportation, work readiness training, mentor services, and work retention funds to help job seekers and newly employed workers meet work-related financial needs.

"The County Board, the City Council and the Mayor are all heavily invested in the value of successful transitions to work for persons who are recipients of public aid," says Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "By coming together around a common policy goal, we are able to ensure that employment and training efforts are effectively managed for the benefit of the recipients who are undergoing a very difficult transition."

Contact: Donna Harris, Director of Neighborhood Services, City of Minneapolis, (612) 673-2885

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