A working solution Featured

9:51am EDT July 22, 2002

Welfare hires are good, productive employees, according to 80 percent of the 7,000-plus small businesses nationwide participating in The Welfare to Work Partnership.

In fact, the percentage of small businesses reporting their satisfaction with this new work force has increased from 75 percent a year earlier — and retention rates have improved, as well. Sixty-two percent of small companies, defined as those with 250 or fewer employees, said in a January survey that their welfare hires stay as long as or longer than other entry-level workers — up from 47 percent who said so last year. Retention among larger companies has improved, too, from 50 to 73 percent.

Nearly three years into the program, however, The Welfare to Work Partnership, a national not-for-profit corporation formed by businesses to help move those on public assistance into jobs in the private sector, is finding its small business supporters need some help recruiting such workers.

While small businesses participating in the partnership express the same commitment to hiring from welfare rolls as large companies, they lag behind large corporations when it comes to actual hiring. Ninety percent of the large companies surveyed report hiring former welfare recipients in the last two years, while 70 percent of small businesses did.

The survey also shows:

  • While two-thirds of large businesses report having formed partnerships with outside agencies to help in hiring and retaining new welfare hires, less than half of small businesses have formed such partnerships. There is a strong correlation between businesses that have established partnerships and the likelihood of hiring someone off welfare.

  • A 1998 study showed only 19 percent of small businesses had accessed the Work Opportunity Tax Credit or the Welfare to Work tax credit, while nearly one-third of larger companies had done so.

To help, the partnership has developed a step-by-step program to take small businesses through each stage of welfare to work. Part of that program is a brochure, “Welfare to work: a smart solution for small business,” which offers examples of how businesses are involved in the program and lists phone numbers and Web sites for more information, such as how to access tax credits. To find out more, visit www.welfaretowork.org or call (888) 872-5621.

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.