Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Self-Sufficiency' Touted as Ticket out of Welfare

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Self-Sufficiency' Touted as Ticket out of Welfare

Article excerpt

Welfare reform is not on the horizon, it's already here, a group of welfare recipients and their social workers recently told state legislators and others in St. Charles.

Five women, most of them single mothers, were crowing about the Family Self-Sufficiency program, in which families that want to get off welfare are given a variety of help by a variety of agencies - and a reward that could top $10,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"Don't take away FSS," pleaded a woman from Old Town St. Peters. "It's the one thing that helps mothers like me survive."

While no one apparently is targeting the FSS program, those involved in it are edgy about the welfare overhaul bill signed last week by President Bill Clinton. One aspect of the bill would give states more control over the money the federal government traditionally hands out.

State Rep. Rich Chrismer, R-St. Peters, said at a recent presentation that "programs like this that work will get more money." But state Sen. St eve Ehlmann, R-St. Charles, was cautious. He has tried with little success the past couple of years to change welfare programs in the state, with the goal of cutting illegitimacy.

"All welfare programs aren't equal, and this one may be better than some others," he said later.

HUD has been pushing the self-sufficiency program for the past three years. The program is available to those receiving a rent subsidy through HUD's Section 8 program. Participants find their own place to live and pay up to 30 percent of their income for rent; HUD pays the landlord the difference.

When an FSS participant gets a decent-paying job, her out-of-pocket expenses for rent go up. But HUD will match this difference and put the money every month into an escrow account for the tenant. HUD will continue to do this for up to five years.

During that time, if the tenant can go 12 consecutive months without any welfare assistance other than help with the rent, she gets the money in the escrow account. …

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