Phase 1 Report of Feasibility Study on New Hire Programs for Canada: New Hire Programs in the United States


We started by reviewing all available material on new hire programs from state and federal governments in the United States, much of which the Department of Justice Canada had already collected. We searched the Web, particularly the sites of the United States Office of Child Support Enforcement and the state child support agencies, and we did a literature search using standard bibliographic sources for public policy and social work periodicals. These steps produced a great deal of material, particularly on the 1996 federal legislation, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The documentation also gave us a clearer understanding of new hire programs.

After consulting with the Project Authority, we limited the scope of the project to the 26 states that had new hire programs before the PRWORA was passed in 1996. We were most interested in how and why those states had independently implemented employer reporting, because those states were in a similar situation to the one Canadian jurisdictions now face—in other words, no federal legislation required them to start programs. However, we soon discovered that many of those states had started new hire programs in anticipation of the federal legislation, which was first introduced as a congressional bill in 1994.

We telephoned representatives of all 26 states that had new hire programs before 1996 (see Appendix B) and asked for written documentation on the programs. As a result, we got various combinations of annual reports, state legislation, monitoring data and evaluations from about 15 states. The remainder either had no or very limited documentation. A number of states could not provide any cost-related information. See Appendix C for the documentation received.

Based on this information, and in consultation with Justice officials, we picked five states for more intensive interviewing and examination:

  • Alaska, whose targeted mandatory program in 1992 was partly funded as a pilot project by the United States Office of Child Support Enforcement;
  • Arizona, which started a voluntary program in 1994 for all employers;
  • Massachusetts, which started a mandatory program in 1993 for all employers;
  • Texas, which initiated both targeted and voluntary programs in 1993; and
  • Washington, where the first program began in 1988 as a pilot (it was formalized in 1990, when reporting became mandatory for targeted employers).

This selection included voluntary and mandatory programs, as well as targeted and all‑industry programs.

We then used a semi-structured interview schedule to telephone one to four officials from each state, where we asked for policy and operational details not available in the documentation. Although most officials were cooperative and helpful, these interviews were not as informative as we had hoped. All respondents said, more or less, that the program was intended to produce timelier employee data. Few state respondents identified problems related to developing or operating the program.

Department of Justice Canada officials were also interested in learning about the exchange of data between the new hire database and other social programs. To this end, we interviewed officials from state public assistance and employment security agencies in Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and West Virginia.

We also telephoned representatives of payroll-processing organizations and other business organizations that had helped develop new hire programs at the state and federal levels. In addition, we interviewed people employed by the American Public Welfare Association and the Center for Law and Social Policy. Further, we spoke to two representatives from the United States Office of Child Support Enforcement: one was partially responsible for overseeing the development of the PRWORA and the other was involved in outreach to employers.

In addition, we interviewed the manager of the Child Support Enforcement Agency in New Zealand and the assistant to the chief executive of child support in the United Kingdom about employer reporting programs grams in their countries. An official from the Child Support Office of the Australian Tax Office provided us with some information on the employer withholding program in that country.

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