Philadelphia mayor seeks extended welfare time-limit FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 19 Nov 1998 00:32:25 -0400


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http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/98/Nov/11/city/WELF11.htm
FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer [Metro section] - November 11, 1998


CITY SEEKS WELFARE EXTENSION

Rendell wants to delay cutoffs -- and wants the
federal government to chip in more for the transition.

By Monica Yant -Inquirer Staff Reporter


Calling welfare "a lousy system," Mayor Rendell yesterday pleaded for help
from the federal and the state governments in dismantling it. Namely,
Rendell was asking for a later deadline for cutting off benefits, and for
more money to improve public transportation and day care for welfare
recipients who are now required to go to work.

" [ Welfare ] didn't work. It produced generation after generation of
dependencies. It didn't give opportunity to people," Rendell said. "But we
can't ask people to get off welfare when there aren't jobs. We can't ask
people to get off welfare when there isn't child care for their kids. . . .
We can't ask people to travel three, four hours to work and back in one
day."

Rendell's comments led the first day of City Council hearings on the 1997
state welfare law that set two-year continuous and five-year lifetime
limits on public assistance. Come March, more than 25,000 Philadelphians --
mostly single mothers -- will hit their two-year limit and risk losing
benefits if they are not working at least 20 hours a week.

The three-hour hearing, which will continue Monday, drew a mix of
bureaucrats and advocates for the poor who clashed over just how serious
the problem is and could become. Several people testified that job training
would be critical.

Among them was Deputy Mayor Donna Cooper, who leads the city's $50 million
federal welfare-to-work effort.

The money is to be used to find people jobs and help them keep them. But
federal law prohibits the city from using that money for training. And
training is exactly what employers willing to hire former welfare
recipients are most concerned about, Cooper said. "They need us to do a
really good job preparing workers," she said.

Councilman David Cohen wondered whether government surpluses -- including
$169 million in the city this year -- could be used to set up programs to
help welfare recipients become independent.

And then there was Erica Morrison, a formerly homeless mother of three, who
said her eight-week job search had turned up nothing. "I'm a welfare
recipient. I'm not lazy, shiftless or crazy," she said.

Philadelphia is home to roughly 65,000 families (191,000 people) on public
assistance -- more than half the state's welfare caseload. Some 19,000
adults got jobs in the year after the new law took effect, according to
Janet Raffel, a consultant with the nonprofit civic group, the 21st Century
League.

Those still on welfare will face hurdles as the March deadline closes in,
according to statistics Raffel provided:

*More than 50 percent lack a high school diploma.
*30 percent are functionally illiterate.
*21 percent lack English proficiency.
*40 percent may be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

As deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare, Sherri
Heller proved a frequent target yesterday for frustrated advocates, who
demanded that the state do more and spend more to help welfare recipients
in Philadelphia.

But Heller said that the mass cutoffs predicted on March 3 would not
happen, since each case would be reviewed by local welfare workers before
anyone -- even people who have refused to consider "work activities" --
loses benefits.

"It's not going to be chaos," she said.

Edward A. Schwartz, the president of the Institute for the Study of Civic
Values and a former city councilman, was not convinced. He challenged
Heller to acknowledge that Pennsylvania's definition of "work activity" --
paid or unpaid employment -- is too narrow and discourages welfare
recipients from seeking education and training that would better prepare
them for self-sufficiency.

To Rosemarie Greco, the stakes are too high for bickering.

"This has got to be a win for the state, a win for the city and, most
importantly, a win for our families," said Greco, the former CoreStates
executive now with the Private Industry Council of Philadelphia, the group
managing the city's welfare-to-work program.

The program's failure, she said, could lead to homelessness, child
abandonment, crime and despair.

"If we fail, it will affect every small shop, every large corporation,
every public and private entity in the city," she said.

END FORWARD
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distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/98/Nov/11/city/WELF11.htm

FWD  Philadelphia Inquirer [Metro section] - November 11, 1998



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>CITY SEEKS WELFARE EXTENSION


Rendell wants to delay cutoffs -- and wants the

federal government to chip in more for the transition. 


By Monica Yant -Inquirer Staff Reporter 

</paraindent>


Calling welfare "a lousy system," Mayor Rendell yesterday pleaded for
help from the federal and the state governments in dismantling it.
Namely, Rendell was asking for a later deadline for cutting off
benefits, and for more money to improve public transportation and day
care for welfare recipients who are now required to go to work.


" [ Welfare ] didn't work. It produced generation after generation of
dependencies. It didn't give opportunity to people," Rendell said. "But
we can't ask people to get off welfare when there aren't jobs. We can't
ask people to get off welfare when there isn't child care for their
kids. . . . We can't ask people to travel three, four hours to work and
back in one day."


Rendell's comments led the first day of City Council hearings on the
1997 state welfare law that set two-year continuous and five-year
lifetime limits on public assistance. Come March, more than 25,000
Philadelphians -- mostly single mothers -- will hit their two-year
limit and risk losing benefits if they are not working at least 20
hours a week.


The three-hour hearing, which will continue Monday, drew a mix of
bureaucrats and advocates for the poor who clashed over just how
serious the problem is and could become. Several people testified that
job training would be critical.


Among them was Deputy Mayor Donna Cooper, who leads the city's $50
million federal welfare-to-work effort.


The money is to be used to find people jobs and help them keep them.
But federal law prohibits the city from using that money for training.
And training is exactly what employers willing to hire former welfare
recipients are most concerned about, Cooper said. "They need us to do a
really good job preparing workers," she said.


Councilman David Cohen wondered whether government surpluses --
including $169 million in the city this year -- could be used to set up
programs to help welfare recipients become independent.


And then there was Erica Morrison, a formerly homeless mother of three,
who said her eight-week job search had turned up nothing. "I'm a
welfare recipient. I'm not lazy, shiftless or crazy," she said.


Philadelphia is home to roughly 65,000 families (191,000 people) on
public assistance -- more than half the state's welfare caseload. Some
19,000 adults got jobs in the year after the new law took effect,
according to Janet Raffel, a consultant with the nonprofit civic group,
the 21st Century League.


Those still on welfare will face hurdles as the March deadline closes
in, according to statistics Raffel provided:


*More than 50 percent lack a high school diploma.

*30 percent are functionally illiterate.

*21 percent lack English proficiency.

*40 percent may be addicted to drugs or alcohol.


As deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Welfare, Sherri
Heller proved a frequent target yesterday for frustrated advocates, who
demanded that the state do more and spend more to help welfare
recipients in Philadelphia.


But Heller said that the mass cutoffs predicted on March 3 would not
happen, since each case would be reviewed by local welfare workers
before anyone -- even people who have refused to consider "work
activities" -- loses benefits.


"It's not going to be chaos," she said.


Edward A. Schwartz, the president of the Institute for the Study of
Civic Values and a former city councilman, was not convinced. He
challenged Heller to acknowledge that Pennsylvania's definition of
"work activity" -- paid or unpaid employment -- is too narrow and
discourages welfare recipients from seeking education and training that
would better prepare them for self-sufficiency.


To Rosemarie Greco, the stakes are too high for bickering.


"This has got to be a win for the state, a win for the city and, most
importantly, a win for our families," said Greco, the former CoreStates
executive now with the Private Industry Council of Philadelphia, the
group managing the city's welfare-to-work program.


The program's failure, she said, could lead to homelessness, child
abandonment, crime and despair.


"If we fail, it will affect every small shop, every large corporation,
every public and private entity in the city," she said.


END FORWARD

-


 

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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