Welfare reform ups poverty, homelessness in Wisconsin: W-2 Study

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 21 Nov 1998 14:14:15 -0400


FWD
This is the Executive Summary for the "W-2 Community Impact Study" by the
Milwaukee Women and Poverty Public Education Initiative (Wittmann and Verber).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION
The W-2 Community Impact Study was commissioned by the Milwaukee County Board
to find out how families receiving food stamps only with no reported earned or
unearned income are being affected by the welfare reform changes.  The State
has reported case reductions of families who are presumed to be in the work
force, but no follow-up on these families has been done.

MAJOR FINDINGS
Profile of the average family:
        Living with one or more other families
        Depend largely on family and/or friends for financial support.
        Headed by a single mother who:
                Is 30 years old
                An African American
                Has 2 children
                Has between a 9th - 11th grade education
                Is the sole provider for the family with an income of less
than $600/month
                Does not receive child support
                Is not currently working due to "major barriers to employment."
                Is not participating in the W-2 program principally because of:
                        Having been declared "job ready"
                        Caseworker error
                        Sanctioned out of the program

                She considers her present situation fair to poor and requests
help, because she does not find the system working for her and her family.


Household composition:
        Over 50% of families were living with at least one other family or
relative.

Income:
        Over 60% of households were living on less than $600/month.
        Over 70% of participants were not working.

        Only 35% of the participants reported receiving a full or partial
W-2 grant.
        Over 85% of the participants reported not receiving any child support.

Major means of survival:
        Borrowed money
        Received money from family members
        Received food from food pantries
        Tried contacting caseworker or W-2 agency
        Babysat

Those who had been off the system the longest were at least twice as likely to:
        Leave children home alone
        Exchange sex for money or other necessities
        Have their children earn money
        Exchange services with others
        Steal money

Major barriers to employment:
        Lack of transportation
        Lack of child care
        Having no phone
        Participating in the W-2 program
        Stress
        Do not speak English well or filled out non-English survey

Major recent impacts on family:
        Half of our sample was sanctioned out of the W-2 program in the last 2
months for one of the following reasons:
                        Caseworker error
                        Sanctioned out of the program (no reason given).
                        Told they were "job ready" and all benefits cut off.
                                Only 15% of the people put in the "job ready"
category had full- time employment.
        Almost 40% of the participants had been evicted or threatened with
eviction in the last 2 months.
        In almost 20% of the households, at least one person went without
food for one day.
        In over 15% of the households, at least one person went without food
for more than one day.

Major stress-related experiences due to welfare reform:
        Over 40% of those currently pregnant considered having an abortion.
        Almost 40% of the participants thought about moving to another state
        Almost 30% had a stress-related medical condition

Major changes in children:
        Almost 40% of the participants reported no significant changes in
their children.
        Over 25% reported their children are having emotional difficulties
        Over 25% reported their children are having behavior/discipline
problems.
        Over 25% reported their children were having school-related problems.

Major Neighborhood Impacts:
        Over 60% reported increased violence/fighting in their neighborhoods
        Almost 60% reported an increase in unsupervised children
        Over 50% reported increased homelessness.

CONCLUSION
Families are subsisting on household incomes severely below the national
poverty levels and their basic needs are not being met.  They are surviving
with temporary, unpredictable means, none of which offers any stable
possibilities for future betterment.  The longer they go without adequate
means of survival, the more they are resorting to less desirable (i.e.
illegal) alternatives.

**********

For a copy of the full report, send $5 (check or money order) for copy and
postal expenses to:

c/o Laura Wittmann
Student Parents Advocacy Network
1001 W. Keefe Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53212

Make checks payable to:  Milwaukee Women and Poverty Public Education
Initiative or Student Parents Advocacy Network

For more information, contact Laura at:  L1Riviera@juno.com
Please feel free to pass this message on (in full) to those you think may be
interested.

Thank you,
Laura

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