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Workfare Assailed

June 02, 1985

This is in response to Assemblywoman Lucy Killea's desire to spread San Diego's workfare program throughout the State of California. ("State Should Adopt 'Workfare' Program Similar to San Diego County's," May 19.)

Workfare in San Diego is a requirement for those receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Therefore, it is primarily a female project. It forces the free labor of masses of females in the marketplace without responsibly addressing child care. It created thousands of latchkey children. It assumes that female welfare recipients are lazy and must be bludgeoned into taking jobs. It literally replaces all training programs and forces all welfare women into low-skill, low-paid welfare cycle jobs or free labor.

The most recent study of San Diego's workfare program confirms that workfare does not substantially increase jobs and actually creates extra welfare costs to the taxpayer. Thirty-three percent of the females studied got jobs with no workfare assistance at all. In addition, workfare actually interfered with the welfare males' getting a job. More men got jobs without workfare assistance.

Nor does workfare save taxpayers' money. According to the study, the taxpayer pays out-of-pocket costs totaling $119 net per workfare participant in addition to regular welfare costs. Further, state statistics show that San Diego County had steady levels of welfare caseloads and expenditures that never went down during the workfare program. Thus, the difference between San Diego and other California counties is that we spend much more. Yet we are continually told that workfare saves taxpayers money. It does not.

How can San Diego's program be held up as humane, compassionate and hopeful when it simply offers a pit filled primarily with females and their dependent children from which they can't escape? This has nothing to do with feminism or any other perceived trendy -ism. It is fairness, clear and simple. Women's work is not free labor anywhere, neither in the home nor in the marketplace. Real woman's work is that which supports her family. It is people work with all of the equal opportunity, training and pay that the term implies.

California has a pending workfare proposal based on the Massachusetts voluntary workfare program. It sees workfare as a choice and not a punishment. Since it offers the training alternative, it has women standing in line to join it. It assumes that, if given a choice, women will work.

It is difficult to understand why the workfare system that doesn't work (San Diego's) is so vigorously supported by Lucy Killea and the local representatives, while the Massachusetts type program that stress employability, training and child care is ignored. I guess official intellectual dishonesty, especially in welfare, is a fact of life.

COLLEEN FAHEY FEARN

San Diego

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