Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Seeks Jump on Welfare Reform

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Seeks Jump on Welfare Reform

Article excerpt

The onset of Florida's welfare reform has evoked some

frightening images among Jacksonville social service officials

and welfare recipients:

Pregnant welfare mothers losing their Medicaid and their

prenatal care.

Failing at the seemingly impossible task of finding 5,000 more

jobs for people getting off the dole.

The ranks of the city's homeless swelling to unmanageable

numbers.

Jacksonville officials want to get beyond the fear and prepare

for the new welfare program that began Oct. 1. A principal

feature of welfare reform here is the requirement that calls for

most welfare recipients to be off the dole and into jobs within

two years.

"The objective is not to panic but to take a good hard look at

the changes and decide what we need to do," said Mary Freeland,

executive director of the Jacksonville Children's Commission.

There are considerable challenges in the Jacksonville area. The

city has 12,236 families receiving cash assistance, 26,837

families receiving food stamps and 80,578 families on Medicaid,

according to the state Department of Children & Families.

"I'm not apprehensive or discouraged," said Cathy Kenyon,

Northeast Florida program administrator for Children & Families.

"We haven't even tried it. We have people saying, `This is

terrible, this is horrible.' But we've been hearing a long time

how we need to get people off welfare. Well, now any interested

party should come to the table and help make this successful."

To comply with the new rules, the city must have about 9,400

jobs filled by welfare recipients within two years, Kenyon said.

Project Independence, a current state welfare-to-work program,

already has about 4,000 jobs filled.

"We do have some work to do, of course, for the 9,400

positions," Kenyon said. …

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