Like most states, Oregon focused on putting people to work when it revamped its welfare program.
But it also allowed short-term education and training. And it encouraged welfare recipients to wait for good jobs, not just take the first one that came along.The results were "unusually successful," said researchers, who concluded that no formally evaluated effort has produced such strong results since a highly regarded program in Riverside, Calif., in the late 1980s.
More people got jobs, increased their earnings and came off welfare, said the report, released Tuesday by Manpower Demonstration Research Corp.
Encouraged, federal officials hope other states will look to Or-e-gon.
"The message is, this is the time to invest (in strong programs), and we know a lot about what to invest in," said Olivia Golden, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Hu-man Services.
The number of people on welfare has fallen across the country, particularly in Oregon, which has worked on welfare reform for years and cut its caseload by 59 percent since 1993. But many experts have cautioned that little is known about what happened to the people who left the rolls.
The answer is crucial as states face increasingly tough requirements to get people working, and people on welfare face a five-year time limit for federal benefits.
Looking for answers, federal officials released a second report Tuesday, documenting the approaches of five states with strong work-oriented welfare programs - Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin - though it did not draw conclusions about their effectiveness.
And this week the General Accounting Office, the research arm of Congress, found a sharp increase in the number of welfare recipients taking jobs and participating in required work activities.
Like most states, Oregon strongly focused on work, requiring applicants to look for a job before collecting a single welfare check. Recipients then faced strict requirements, and those who didn't comply were sanctioned.
But unlike many, Oregon did not abandon the education and training programs commonly used, with little success, in the 1980s and strongly discouraged under the 1996 overhaul. About half of the people in the program were sent to short-term education, vocational training or life skills classes. Caseworkers sent a strong message that the ultimate goal was to get a job.
Also, unlike other states, Oregon encouraged recipients to wait for full-time jobs paying above the minimum wage and offering benefits and possible advancement.