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COVER STORY : A Special Report: Jobs : New Incentives Aimed at Freeing Mothers From Welfare

July 11, 1993|ROBERT J. LOPEZ

In hopes of moving more welfare recipients to private-sector payrolls, the state will institute welfare reforms in September that provide money for child care and reward parents who work.

"You can honestly say, for the first time in years, we have made work pay," said Amy Albright, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Social Services.

Making work pay is one of the principles guiding a White House task force charged with reforming welfare. The group is expected to forward recommendations to Preisdent Clinton later this year for a national revamping of the welfare system, a task force spokesman said.

A single mother on AFDC with two children--the typical welfare case--will be able to keep her full AFDC earnings if she takes a minimum-wage job. That will allow her to earn $1,111 a month, or $296 more than she would make by just receiving welfare, Albright said.

AFDC, or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, pays a monthly allotment based on the number of children.

That same woman, Albright said, will be able to keep her AFDC grant indefinitely while she earns the minimum wage in the hope that she eventually will get a better-paying job and break free of welfare.

Generally, a mother of two who works full time at minimum wage would have her AFDC grant reduced by about $200 after four months.

Beginning in September, a mother of two will also be able to receive from about $325 to $750 a month for child care--one of the hurdles that keep many from working.

There are also new incentives of $100 a month for teen-age mothers to stay in high school and $500 a month if they graduate.

And the state's Greater Avenues to Independence program, which provides job training and counseling to welfare recipients, will be beefed up by an additional $41 million. That will provide training for an additional 47,000 people, Albright said.

The new programs will be funded with $62 million that will come from a 2.7% across-the-board cut in AFDC benefits. An additional $14 million is expected to be generated from expanded efforts to crack down on welfare fraud, Albright said.

Critics are skeptical.

Clare Pastore, a staff attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, criticized the 2.7% cut as excessive. She said additional money for job training is just a fraction of what is needed to put many people back to work. For example, she said, the Greater Avenues to Independence program already turns nine out of 10 people away.

"There's no secret about what we need. It's just going to take the appropriate resources," Pastore said.

Others warn that the incentives will do little to motivate people who use welfare money to buy drugs and alcohol, or women who keep having children to get a bigger check. Said Ana Lopez, 37, a Jordan Downs resident who has been on welfare for 14 years: "We have a problem with a lot of parents who are not responsible."

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