The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors did the right thing when it rejected cutting off general relief benefits that were going to expire during Thanksgiving week. The supervisors extended aid for three months and ordered the county welfare department to do better at providing job training and placement.
The extension is politically feasible because the county welfare agency has accumulated more than $280 million in surplus funds from significant reductions in the federally funded welfare population--the families receiving traditional aid to poor children. It is also the right thing to do because the welfare department got off to a slow start on the workfare program that targets general relief recipients. General relief provides a monthly cash grant of $221 to poor, unemployed single men and women who are not raising children and are generally ineligible for other forms of monetary aid.
The Board of Supervisors last year restricted general relief cash benefits for employable recipients to five months a year. The loss of those benefits, according to independent surveys by UCLA and the nonprofit Shelter Partnership, caused increased hunger and homelessness.
The board changed that policy earlier this year and allowed the 41,000 recipients deemed employable to receive cash assistance for nine months if they complied with all requirements, including participating in a county workfare program. The first group of general relief recipients were scheduled to hit that deadline this week. The reprieve will allow them to collect cash benefits for three additional months, until February, and give the welfare agency more time to improve job training and placement.