Early Insights from the Jobs Plus Pilot Program

Early Insights from the Jobs Plus Pilot Program
Betsy Tessler, Nandita Verma, Jonathan Bigelow, Victoria Quiroz-Becerra, Kirstin Frescoln, William Rohe, Michael Webb, Amy Khare, Mark Joseph, Emily Miller
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
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To address barriers to employment and advancement among public housing residents, who live in some of America’s most economically challenged communities, the Jobs Plus program provides employment services and income disregards, and it promotes activities to help foster community support for work. A distinctive facet of Jobs Plus is its attempt to operate a place-based, multicomponent model at saturation levels within the target public housing developments—that is, not just target a small share of residents but, rather, everyone who lives in the development and is of working age and able to work. After achieving initially positive results, the program was replicated and expanded, and now, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $62 million to 24 public housing authorities to implement Jobs Plus. This report describes the first cohort’s nine grantees that were awarded four-year grants in 2015 and offers insights into the approaches sites have taken to frame the Jobs Plus model components and early participation outcomes. It examines the early implementation phase, when the programs had been in operation for about a year, and includes interviews and insights from site visits that the research team conducted 16 to 18 months after grantees had been selected to operate Jobs Plus.

Key findings

  • Partnerships are critical to running a successful Jobs Plus program. All sites developed partnerships to implement the program, and they varied by types of partners selected, partners’ roles in Jobs Plus service delivery, the value partners brought, and the level of ongoing engagement. Most partnered with local workforce boards and education and training organizations but did not have direct relationships with employers or business-related organizations.
  • All sites provided preemployment services, but they were typically general services not tailored to meet participants’ specific needs and skills. Researchers found that many participants conducted their own job searches that tended to be for any jobs available and were not based on pay or type of employment. Additionally, staff reported that many public housing residents faced barriers to employment, including lack of access to child care or transportation and limited literacy and math skills.
  • Staff at some sites struggled with confusion over the Jobs Plus Earned Income Disregard and the community support for the program’s work components. The Jobs Plus Earned Income Disregard provided residents incentives to participate in the program, but some staff expressed confusion about how to enroll residents and which income sources qualified for exemptions. Many also expressed confusion about what counted as community support for work and how to implement this program element.
  • The findings suggest that sites could benefit from more frequent, earlier, and deeper technical assistance and that sites need input from employers and business-oriented organizations to help participants understand the industries and jobs in demand locally, among other recommendations.