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Work First
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Phone: (828) 695-5600


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3030 11th Avenue Drive SE
Hickory, NC 28602

Mailing Address:
PO Box 669
Newton, NC 28658

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Office Hours:
Mon - Fri, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
You may report suspected child or adult abuse at any time

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Changing the Welfare Culture! The Possibilities are Endless!

Work First is the cornerstone to reforming North Carolina's welfare system into a system that focuses on employment and self-sufficiency. Work First cannot be accomplished by government alone. Moving families off welfare and toward self-sufficiency requires the efforts of the entire community. It requires all families to sign a binding contract that details their plan for getting off welfare and commits them to taking care of their family. Work First sets strict time limits on benefits and applies tough sanctions on those families who refuse to meet their responsibilities.

Key Points

  • Every job has meaning and purpose. The focus of the program is Employment and Short Term Financial Assistance.
  • Sets a federal lifetime limit of 60 cumulative months during which welfare benefits may be received.
  • North Carolina limits receipt of benefits to 24 cumulative months, then terminates benefits for 36 months before the family can receive again.
  • Sanctions are imposed for non-compliance with Child Support.
  • Pay After Performance, now referred to as Work First Benefits, is for all work-eligible families. To receive a Work First check, all aspects of the Mutual Responsibility Agreement must be met.

To see the full version of Catawba County's Work First Plan for 2009-2011, click here.

Families must be given the opportunity to become independent. Under Work First, benefits are intended to be short term. Families are expected to work actively toward and share in the responsibility of becoming self-sufficient.

Work First consists of two components -- Cash and Employment Services

To receive cash benefits, a family must meet established criteria, there must be an eligible deprived child (under 18) in the home with the person who qualifies as a caretaker, and income and resource limits must be met. A family receiving Work First Family Assistance (Cash Benefits) is allowed $3,000 in resources. All resources available, or that can be made available, to the family are counted. A family must meet an income test to receive Work First Family Assistance. To encourage work and make work pay, family members who work are allowed special work-related deductions.

Employment Services are specially designed to help families get and maintain a job. Employment Services should assist each family to accomplish the following:

  • Increase personal responsibility
  • Remove barriers to employment
  • Secure employment (Click here for NC Employment Security Commission)
  • Reduce long-term dependence on welfare programs

Contact Leah Haas, Work First Supervisor at 828-695-5728.

For additional information on all Work First Programs in North Carolina, see University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work)