The Choices program helps people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits to find jobs and become more independent. The program is for people who are applying for or receiving TANF. It is also for parents who are not getting assistance anymore. Choices participants take part in different activities that will help them get ready for work. These activities include searching for jobs, learning skills needed for jobs, going to school to get an education and taking job training. The program also provides support services like help paying for work clothes or training supplies. The goal of the program is to help people care for themselves and their families through employment.
The Choices program helps two kinds of families: those with one parent and those with two parents. If you have two parents in your family, at least one of them must work to meet the program's work requirement. The main things to know about the program are:
- The help you get from TANF is not forever.
- Texans should take responsibility for taking care of themselves and their families.
- The program's goal is to help you find a job.
Choices helps people who apply for and receive cash assistance to find a job as soon as they can.
Choices Services - Getting Ready for Work
The Workforce Orientation for Applicants (WOA) is a special class to introduce people to the services offered by Workforce Solutions offices. If you're applying for TANF, you must attend this orientation. The exception is if the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) says you don't have to. Once you're approved, TANF recipients must attend an Employment Planning Session (EPS).
During the EPS, Workforce Solutions office staff will meet with TANF recipients to tell them about Choices services. Staff members also talk with them in detail to understand their situation better and create a Family Employment Plan (FEP). After making the FEP, Choices participants usually need to do work-related activities. For single parents, it's at least 30 hours per week, and for two-parent families, it's either 35 or 55 hours per week, depending on whether they get child care from TWC. Most recipients will have to do one of these activities related to work:
- Work in a regular job
- Work in a job with help from the program
- Get trained on the job
- Go to school for educational services if they haven't finished high school or don't have a High School Equivalency credential
Getting a Job - Help for Choices Participants
If you're part of the Choices program and searching for a job, staff will help you. Their top priority is to help you get a job. If that’s not possible, they will look for jobs with program support or offer on-the-job training. They also provide vocational and educational training. For teenagers who haven’t finished high school or don't have a High School Equivalency certification, the program will help you complete your education.
You can also do any of these activities to improve your chances of getting and keeping a job:
- Looking for jobs
- Doing community service to help others and learn skills
- Learning new job skills
Taking Part in the Choices Program
If you're in the Choices program, the education and training you receive must be for a specific job offer or a job in a field with lots of opportunities. The local Workforce Development Boards (Boards) in charge of the program make sure that if you need any help going to training or work, they'll provide support services for you. These services are meant to remove obstacles that might keep you from meeting your goal.
If you tell Boards that you need support services, they must give them to you so you can take part fully. If they can't remove the obstacles and you can't participate, you will still get TANF help, if you have a good reason.
Support services are available for those who are looking for work or have already found a job. Some of the services include:
- Help with child care
- Assistance with transportation
- Help with work-related expenses like work clothes or tools
- Financial help for taking GED tests
- Individual development accounts (a savings account that helps you reach goals)
- One-time payments for short-term needs
It's important to actively participate in the Choices program. If you don't take part without a good reason, you might stop getting cash benefits, Medicaid benefits for adults and support services. So stay involved and make the most of the help offered!
Help After Getting a Job - Choices Post-Employment Services
After you get a job through the Choices program, Boards offer services to help you keep your job and deal with any problems that might come up. The first few months of work are really important, so Boards make sure to follow up and provide support to help you succeed and keep your job.
Boards make sure that the Workforce Solutions office staff offers these services to everyone in Choices after they find a job. It doesn't matter if you're still applying, got accepted conditionally or got assistance before and now have a job but need more help to keep it and become self-sufficient. Some of the key services offered are:
- Continued support and help from a case manager
- Help with child care, transportation and work expenses
- Help finding more job opportunities
- Connecting to education and training programs
- Information about other support services available in the community
- More career planning and counseling to guide your path
- Having a mentor to support and guide you