Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reformers Need Welfare Input

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reformers Need Welfare Input

Article excerpt

AS POLITICIANS and bureaucrats in Washington debate her fate, Marianne Brooks wonders why the government keeps throwing roadblocks in her way as she works to get off welfare.

Brooks, 25, receives Aid to Families with Dependent Children and food stamps. But forget all the stereotypes you may have about people on welfare sitting back and watching TV all day, collecting big government checks for doing nothing.

Brooks is trying to do something with her life, and if the government would get out of the way, she just might make it.

Brooks, a nursing student and the mother of a 5-year-old son, has to struggle to make ends meet, even with the small check she gets each month. But what she has found, as she's struggled to get off welfare, is that she's penalized for trying to get on her feet.

If Brooks stayed home all day and did nothing, she would receive a monthly check of $232, which she says doesn't come close to paying even half her bills. But she's found that the government considers as income a grant that she received so that she could attend nursing school and has cut the meager check she gets. She now gets only about $100 in food stamps. Were it not for help from her mother and other relatives, she would not have been able to survive.

Brooks has placed her son into a Catholic school, for which she also received a grant. Again, the government considers that grant income. "It's not like I had the money to send him to Catholic school, but we did get a grant," she said. "He's my only child. If he had older brothers and sisters, I wouldn't mind sending him to public school. But I think public school can be kind of rough, and I wanted the best I could get for my son."

Even so, it's not as if Brooks could have spent the grant money on other items had she not sent her son to the parochial school. But try telling that to the government.

"I'm not alone with these kinds of problems," Brooks said. "I've talked to plenty other people who have the same problems. So what happens is a lot of people lie, even though they know that the government will eventually catch up with them."

Brooks has been fortunate enough to land an occasional job at a hospital, where she works maybe once a month. …

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