[Hpn] WELFARE REFORM Findings Reflect Disturbing Trend - AFSC press release (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 11 Jun 2001 20:39:17 -0700 (PDT)

USA FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 5, 2001 5:00 PM CONTACT: American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org/ Janis D. Shields (215)241-7060 <jshields@afsc.org> John W. Haigis (215) 241-7056 FIVE YEARS AND COUNTING NATIONAL WELFARE REFORM FINDINGS REFLECT DISTRUBING TREND PHILADELPHIA - June 5 - Organizations across the country are raising serious questions about the effects of welfare reform. In an effort to better assess the success or failure of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA), the American Friends Service Committee has released a compilation of the findings from a wide cross-section of faith-based organizations, women's and civic groups, government, private research and public policy institutions nationwide. The verdict is clear. Most major groups that have looked deeply into the impact of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) have recommended serious changes to the existing program. "It is alarming to see that, across-the-board, findings have not been positive," states Kathryn Kurtz, AFSC associate director of the Community Relations Unit. "That holds true regardless of the social or political leanings of the organization conducting the study -- whether liberal or moderate, faith-based or government, grassroots or academic, overall the message is that TANF has not been adequate." As Congress now revisits PRWORA with its first series of hearings on the reauthorization process, it is crucial to view the human impact of welfare reform in assessing its success or failure. The facts are startling. In 1999, the year from which data is most comprehensive: More than half of employed former welfare recipients were unable to pay rent, buy food, afford medical care and/or pay for phone and electric service. According to one study, only former recipients with at least a two-year post-secondary or vocational degree were likely to escape poverty by earnings alone. Compared to their white counterparts, black recipients were more likely to be required to take a pre-employment test, less likely to obtain employment regardless of educational background and less likely to report receiving job or educational information from caseworkers. Women leaving welfare earned an average of $6.75 an hour, barely enough to raise a family of three above the federal poverty line. Fifty-eight percent of employed former recipients had incomes below the poverty line. Requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Sixty-two percent of those requesting assistance were children and their parents, and 32 percent of the adults were employed. The effects of welfare reform continue to unfold. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1999, 32 million Americans including 12 million children lived in poverty, despite strong growth in the economy. While more than half of former recipients are now employed, many families still face significant barriers to employment. The findings challenge legislators and state policymakers to examine traditional attitudes toward poverty and so-called "welfare-to-work" programs. While specific points vary, many organizations advocate similar reforms that include: 1.Reward states for reducing poverty rates, not welfare rolls; 2.Establish federal requirements and accountability mechanisms that cover eligibility, benefit levels, sanctions, services and follow-up; 3.Consider the problems of women who are survivors of domestic violence; 4.Restore benefits to eligible families, regardless of immigration status; 5.Replicate policies that have proved effective in lifting families out of poverty, including: Increase the minimum wage as a first step toward establishing a living wage Expand the earned income tax credit Increase access to post-secondary education Increase access to affordable, quality child care Increase transportation, rent, mortgage and/or utility subsidies Replace arbitrary time-limits with case-by-case timelines that acknowledge the multiple barriers many families face. As an organization grounded in Quaker beliefs, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) respects the dignity and worth of every person. Consequently a view that blames individuals for these economic realities is morally unacceptable. AFSC embraces a vision that addresses the structural causes of poverty: low-wage jobs, lack of universal health care, domestic violence and inadequate public education, among others. Low-wage jobs without benefits are not the answer to ending poverty. "The challenge, as proven by the results over the past five years, is to develop a system that works to end poverty - not one that simply pushes individuals off welfare rolls. We must work toward a caring and equitable society," Kurtz states. The compilation report, entitled "Everyone is Deserving: A Toolkit on TANF Reauthorization and Welfare Reform," is an effort of the American Friends Service Committee Economic Justice Network and Worker's Rights Committee in Hawai'i, and West Virginia, and Indiana; the AFSC Women's Program and Community Relations Unit; and the Grassroots Alliance to End Poverty. It is designed to be a hands-on resource for organizations entering the debate on welfare reform. For more information, contact Kathryn Kurtz, at (215) 241-7125, or see the web description. The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Sample Reports and Organizations Center for Policy Alternatives, a nonpartisan public policy and leadership development center based in Washington, D.C. Welfare Information Network (www.welfareinfo.org) California Council of Churches (www.calchurches.org) American Public Human Services Association (www.aphsa.org) National Council of Churches (www.ncccusa.org) National Governors Association (www.nga.org) The Urban Institute (www.urban.org) U.S. Council of Mayors (www.usamayors.org) Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) (www.clasp.org) "Assessing the New Federalism" series, National Center for Children in Poverty, July 2000 Welfare Reform: An Overview of Effects To Date, The Brookings Institution, Jan 2001 (www.brookings.org) Welfare Reform, Applied Research Center, a public policy, educational and research institute whose work emphasizes issues of race and social change. January 2001 (www.arc.org) The Initial Impacts of Welfare Reform on the Economic Well-Being of Single Mother Families, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, August and December 1999 (www.cpbb.org) "Making Welfare to Work Really Work," American Psychological Association (www.apa.org/pi/wpo.myths.html) "Helping Families Achieve Self-sufficiency: A Guide to Funding Services for Children and Families Through the TANF Program," U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (www.acf.dhhs.gov) A Post Welfare Report, Children's Defense Fund, December 2000 (www.childrensdefense.org) END FORWARD Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People: *************************************************************** Over 10,000 articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people Been Homeless? Then JOIN! EMAIL Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy ***************************************************************