Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Welfare-to-Work Has Some Success

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Welfare-to-Work Has Some Success

Article excerpt

It is the type of story that warms a welfare reformer's heart. Faced with a looming loss of her benefits, an unmarried Green Bay mother found the first job outside her home that she ever had.

But, after getting her first paycheck, she became angry. She was being cheated, she told her caseworker. Her employer didn't pay what he promised.

Looking at her pay stub, her caseworker quickly figured out the problem. Nobody had warned the woman about something called withholding taxes. The woman listened intently as her social worker explained how state and local governments collect payroll taxes to pay for schools and highways and, yes, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, more commonly known as "welfare." Soon the woman decided that this tax thing was not so bad after all. She stayed on the job. I heard quite a few stories like that recently from social workers at Wisconsin's annual Governor's Employment and Training Conference in Madison. Unfortunately, along with the good news, I heard horror stories about overcrowded shelters and depleted food banks last winter in Milwaukee. In addition, bureaucratic snafus dropped qualified recipients from the rolls before their paperwork was processed. But the horror stories have not been as horrible or widespread as many feared. So far, the good news has far outweighed the bad. If you want to study what works in welfare, Wisconsin is a great place to start. Even before President Bill Clinton signed a welfare bill that handed off the national safety net to the laboratory of the states last year, Wisconsin was taking the lead in moving residents from welfare to work. Since the beginning of 1993, Wisconsin has reduced its welfare rolls by 49 percent, followed by Oregon's 43 percent and Indiana's 42 percent. Nationwide, welfare rolls dropped 20 percent during that period, to 11.3 million people from 14.1 million. The big questions left hanging are: Why have the rolls dropped, how much farther can they drop and could they go back up? The causes of the welfare decline are hard to pin down, according to an analysis the President's Council of Economic Advisers released on Friday. …

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