Getting Down to Business with Welfare Reform

State Legislatures, February 1996 | Go to article overview

Getting Down to Business with Welfare Reform


States keep coming up with great ideas for welfare reform. Both federal and state lawmakers have focused on getting welfare recipients to work, but these plans require that welfare offices find lots of new jobs for recipients.

Missouri has embarked on a demonstration project that promises to, help. The welfare-to-work initiative refers work-eligible applicants for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and food stamps directly to employers who have job openings. And in cases cases, applicants end up working rather than receiving welfare benefits. The project started in Pettis County and has spread to several other counties. Officials plan to implement it statewide.

Senate President Pro Tem James Mathewson, who sponsored the legislation, points to the importance of finding cooperative employers. "The initiative requires employers with job openings who are willing to interview referrals and report who was hired and who failed to keep interview appointments," Mathewson said. "The employers work directly with case-workers to place applicants in jobs instead of on public assistance."

In Pettis County, several local employers quickly signed on to the program including a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant and J.A. Lamy Manufacturing, which makes blue jeans.

Missouri's initiative has put many people into jobs, but it also demonstrates the difficulty of finding. employment for welfare recipients. Of 179 applicants referred for jobs to the Tyson Foods plant in the first five months, 12 currently work, there. About half of the referrals failed to keep job interview appointments and therefore faced sanctions that reduced of eliminated their benefits. Another 39 applicants, faced with working at the Tyson plant or losing benefits, found other jobs.

Mathewson noted that the program was not for all recipients. Those who are physically unable to work, mothers with children under 6 and those who lack transportation to work are exempt from benefit sanctions. Yet without spending any money on extra programs or increasing personnel, the welfare-to-work initiative has helped families avoid welfare dependence, "This program is using local efforts and controls to move families off welfare the same way they got on -- one family at a time," Senator Mathewson explained.

The initiative supplements Missouri's broader welfare reforms. …

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