America Works was founded in 1984 by social activist and entrepreneur Peter Cove, a Boston native who wanted to put his ideals about poverty and the American dream into practice.
Since then, this private workforce development firm has found jobs for about 300,000 hard-to-place workers, including military veterans, long-term welfare and food stamp recipients, former criminal offenders, people who are homeless and living in shelters, youths aging out of foster care, non-custodial parents, people living with HIV/AIDS, and people receiving SSI/SSDI.
Peter Cove and America Works’ President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lee Bowes have become the nation’s leading experts on welfare-to-work and prison-to-work social programs. In the early 1990s, they were instrumental in educating Congress about the merits of linking private sector employment with welfare reform. Their efforts contributed to the passage of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. This bill, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by Pres. Clinton, was meant to “end welfare as we know it.”
America Works pioneered performance-based government contracting – a business model that is still not commonly used in the social services field. States and cities pay only when people move from dependency into employment. Most other contractors are paid when clients enroll in their programs, regardless of whether they enter employment.
Today, America Works’ guiding principle is the belief that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to help them find jobs – real private-sector jobs. In other words, it believes that work first works best.
This success has earned America Works nationwide recognition. For example, it has received:
National awards for public policy innovation from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and from the Ford Foundation;
Recognition and awards for its innovative and creative program model from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Welfare-to-Work Partnership;
A special citation from the Department of Employment for the City of New York for achieving 100% of its programs’ performance goals; and The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.