Gov. Don Sundquist's Families First welfare reform program has helped boost

education and employment levels among state welfare recipients, a

University of Tennessee study shows.

Bill Fox, the UT-Knoxville economist who directed the study, said 74.4

percent of Families First adults had held a job sometime during the study

period from September 1996 to October 1997, compared to 56.6 percent in the

same period a year before the pro

gram started.

"We are seeing more families go to work, gain independence and become more

productive members of society," Fox said. "This type of progress is exactly

the intent of the Families First program."

The study also shows that nearly 54 percent of the participating adults had

a high school diploma or equivalent in October 1997. That's up from 50

percent in September 1995, Fox said.

"Education makes people more employable," he said. "A more educated

workforce helps create a more productive state economy.

"This is an important focus of the Families First program, and this

increase is an encouraging sign."

Families First, launched Sept. 1, 1996, is a temporary cash assistance

program which emphasizes work, job training and education. Participants are

eligible for help with child care, transportation and making the transition

back into the workforce.