Tina E. Corbett
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Physical Address:
DSS Building
714 North Street
Smithfield, NC 27577
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 911
Smithfield, NC 27577
Phone: 919-989-5300
Fax: 919-989-5324
Work First Program

Johnston County's Work First program is putting welfare recipients to work. The program is built upon the belief that "all people have a responsibility to their families and community to work and provide for their children."

The program provides assistance in the form of a monthly check to families. The amount of the check depends on the number of individuals in the family and the amount of family income. There must be a child under age 18 in the home. Work First also provides Medicaid, which pays for the medical expenses of each individual in the check.

In order to receive a check, Work First requires parents to:

  • Sign personal responsibility contracts detailing their plans for getting off welfare.
  • Look for and accept work.
  • Ensure that their children are immunized and receive regular medical check-ups.
  • Keep their children in school.
  • Cooperate with child support enforcement efforts

Work First understands that families need help to find and keep a job. That's why we provide short-term training (when needed), transportation, child care and health care. Together, these services can provide a safety net for families to remain in the workforce and off the welfare rolls.

Key Components of Work First


Welfare recipients are required to get a job--either paid or unpaid--or be in short-term job training within 12 weeks. For at least 35 hours per week.

Limited Benefits

Recipients must leave welfare rolls in two years. After three years, they may reapply for benefits. For hardship cases where families, through no fault of their own, have been unable to find work, local review boards can grant month-to-month extensions of cash benefits while the parent continues to look for work.

Personal Responsibility

Welfare recipients must sign a mutual responsibility contract detailing their plan for moving off welfare. They must assume responsibility for their families. If they don't sign, they won't get benefits. If they break the contract, their benefits will be cut. Work First also:
  • Requires teen parents to stay in school and live at home or under approved adult supervision.
  • Caps benefits--there are no additional cash payments for children born after a family has been in Work First for longer than 10 months.
  • Imposes sanctions for families that don't meet their Work First obligations.


Work First eases the transition into the work force by helping with transportation, the job search and providing short-term job training.

  • Work First participants have found jobs through the First Stop Employment Assistance Program where they are required to look for a job at the Employment Security Commission before they can qualify for a welfare check. At First Stop they are screened for job readiness and referred for additional job training if needed.
  • Participants can get Medicaid to cover medical expenses up to a year after they leave welfare for work or other supportive services such as child care and/or transportation.
  • Families experiencing a crisis that puts them at risk for going on welfare can get an emergency grant.

Protection of Children

  • Work First makes child care more affordable for families leaving welfare and for low-income working families.
  • Under North Carolina's new children's health insurance plan, children whose families have left welfare would still be able to get health coverage.
  • Work First personal responsibility agreements require parents to make sure their children get needed health care and attend school.


Johnston County is making Work First a Success

Johnston County's welfare rolls have declined 62 percent--down from 1,382 families in June 1995 to 526 families in July 1999. More than 1,398 families have gotten jobs and gotten off welfare. 93% of these families have stayed off welfare after going to work. Of the 526 families left on the rolls, 368 are child-only cases. These cases include families whose parents may be receiving disability or where DSS has placed children from neglectful or abusive families with relatives in order to give the child a safe and healthy environment in which to grow and learn. These families are not financially able to care for these children; therefore, a check goes into the home monthly to help meet their needs. Child support is being pursued from the parents in these cases.