Fw: Off welfare, luckiest join benefit-less working poor FWD

H. C. Covington (ach1@sprynet.com)
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 07:06:30 -0600


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http://www.globe.com/dailyglobe/globehtml/326/Off_the_welfare_rolls_to_wh=
ere_.shtml
FWD Boston Globe 11/22/98 page E03
POLICY

OFF THE WELFARE ROLLS TO WHERE?
THE LUCKIEST JOIN THE UNCARED-FOR,
BENEFIT-LESS WORKING POOR

By Randy Albelda
Professor of Economics
University of Massachusetts at Boston


The start of a new era in welfare regulation is imminent. On Dec. 1, the =
first wave of recipients will hit their 24-month time limit. They and =
their families will no longer be eligible for cash assistance unless =
granted a special six-month extension.=20

Time limits are just one of the many new ''get tough'' welfare =
provisions in Massachusetts. Others include stiff work requirements and =
reduced benefits for those who did not report the whereabouts of their =
children's fathers, received aid while becoming pregnant, or whose =
children skipped school too many times.=20

Governor Paul Cellucci, and his predecessor William F. Weld, along with =
the Department of Transitional Assistance, all have argued that welfare =
is working. The sole piece of non-anecdotal evidence is that the =
caseload has plummeted. But that is something we would have expected =
anyway in a booming economy.=20

To date, the governor's office has not produced any reliable data on the =
success or failure of these new tough policies, or how families are =
faring under them. Are families replacing public assistance with =
earnings? Are children going hungry? Who is taking care of children when =
women work? How are families coping with their new mandate to be =
self-sufficient or be cut off?=20

A special legislative commission established last year to study the =
impact of welfare reform has met several times and hired a researcher to =
review administrative data such as employment records. But, on the eve =
of the next wave of ''get tough'' changes, we've had no published =
reports from this panel.=20

Welfare reform is one of the largest social experiments ever conducted =
in the state. At the time it was enacted in 1995, it affected about =
300,000 of our most vulnerable residents, two-thirds of whom are =
children.=20

As we mark the second anniversary of federal welfare reform - and usher =
in Massachusetts' fourth year of implementing its own changes - it seems =
that we should know more about how the people receiving welfare, and =
those no longer on the rolls, are doing.=20

Instead, we have to look to what other states are finding to get a =
glimpse of what is happening. A forthcoming report from the Center for =
Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research and policy =
institute, makes that task easier. It summarizes the findings from =
evaluations of earnings and employment outcomes for welfare recipients =
performed in 13 states.=20

The studies differ in many ways, including who was followed (former and =
current recipients); the time periods of employment that were evaluated =
(from one quarter to one year); and how researchers got their =
information (surveys or looking at unemployment insurance quarterly =
records).=20

Still, the results are remarkably similar: The typical former welfare =
recipient is employed, working a substantial number of hours, making =
poverty wages in a job that has no paid vacation, sick leave, or =
employer-sponsored health care.=20

Studies of former welfare recipients in Indiana, Maryland, South =
Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin found that between one-half and two-thirds =
of parents were employed soon after leaving the welfare rolls, =
regardless of why they left.=20

In Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington state, =
researchers found that the majority of current and former recipients =
work a substantial numbers of hours a week when they are employed - =
usually 30 hours or more.=20

So far, so good. But before celebrating, stop to consider what the =
studies found about how much people are earning.=20

In Pensacola, Fla., three-quarters of former and current recipients =
earned less than $7 an hour. The average wage was $6.55 an hour in =
Minnesota, $7.34 an hour in Portland, Ore., and $6.44 in South Carolina. =
That's hardly enough to support a single person, let alone a family.=20

In the studies that looked at total earnings received over several =
months (rather than hourly wages when employed), researchers found that =
the majority had earnings well below poverty level. In Milwaukee, 75 =
percent of former recipients had earnings below the poverty line. In =
Maryland, the average earnings amounted to $9,500 a year.=20

Researchers in Los Angeles, Delaware, Pensacola, Minnesota, and Oregon =
found that current recipients, most in state work-demonstration =
programs, had earnings that are two-thirds the official poverty line.=20

These earnings levels should come as no surprise when you look at the =
kinds of jobs former recipients find. More that one-third of former =
recipients in Maryland were working in wholesale or retail trade. Almost =
half of those in South Carolina were in service occupations, mostly in =
food preparation or lodging establishments. Close to one-third of the =
employed former recipients in Milwaukee found jobs in temporary =
employment agencies.=20

And what about ''family-friendly'' policies at such workplaces? In the =
four states where researchers looked at whether employers offered health =
insurance in the jobs held by working former or current recipients, they =
found that between 40 and 60 percent did not. The two studies that asked =
about vacation and sick leave found that about one-third of employers =
offered sick days and less than half had paid vacation time. There was =
no provision for mothers who had to miss work because their children =
were sick.=20

Even with this set of studies, there is still much we don't know. Paid =
work can build self-esteem, but it also conflicts with providing care to =
families. What is happening to the children of mothers in the workplace? =
Who watches the children when their mothers are working between 30 and =
40 hours a week?=20

The work many recipients are finding is clearly not what most of us =
would consider good, or even stable, work. Are the workplaces safe, are =
bosses abusive or exploitative, knowing their women employees have few =
choices?=20

And perhaps the scariest questions of all: What is happening to the =
''missing'' recipients - those who have left the rolls but do not turn =
up in surveys or on unemployment insurance records? How are they =
surviving?=20

Massachusetts, like the other states studied, has pursued a ''work =
first'' strategy with a vengeance. For those who do find and keep paid =
employment, welfare reform is translating into a ''working poor =
creation'' policy. For those who can't find paid employment or can't do =
paid work, it is worse than that.=20

Massachusetts, indeed the nation, has succeeded in implementing welfare =
reform but not in addressing the problem of poverty, especially among =
women and children. To call this a ''success'' is to stretch beyond =
recognition the meaning of the word.=20

[Randy Albelda is a professor of economics at the University of =
Massachusetts at Boston.]=20


H. C. Sonny Covington  @  I CAN America
Louisiana Instuite on Homelessness & Housing
125 S. Buchanan Street - Lafayette, LA  70501
(318) 235-7005  Fax 318-235-7602 1-877-734-4664
hccovington@usa.net
icanamerica@usa.net
ach1@sprynet.com

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http://www.globe.com/dailyglobe/globehtml/326/Off_the= _welfare_rolls_to_where_.shtml
FWD=20 Boston Globe 11/22/98 page=20 E03
POLICY

OFF THE WELFARE = ROLLS TO=20 WHERE?
THE LUCKIEST JOIN THE UNCARED-FOR,
BENEFIT-LESS WORKING=20 POOR

By Randy Albelda
Professor of Economics
University of=20 Massachusetts at Boston


The start of a new era = in=20 welfare regulation is imminent. On Dec. 1, the first wave of recipients = will hit=20 their 24-month time limit. They and their families will no longer be = eligible=20 for cash assistance unless granted a special six-month extension. =

Time=20 limits are just one of the many new ''get tough'' welfare provisions in=20 Massachusetts. Others include stiff work requirements and reduced = benefits for=20 those who did not report the whereabouts of their children's fathers, = received=20 aid while becoming pregnant, or whose children skipped school too many = times.=20

Governor Paul Cellucci, and his predecessor William F. Weld, = along with=20 the Department of Transitional Assistance, all have argued that welfare = is=20 working. The sole piece of non-anecdotal evidence is that the caseload = has=20 plummeted. But that is something we would have expected anyway in a = booming=20 economy.

To date, the governor's office has not produced any = reliable=20 data on the success or failure of these new tough policies, or how = families are=20 faring under them. Are families replacing public assistance with = earnings? Are=20 children going hungry? Who is taking care of children when women work? = How are=20 families coping with their new mandate to be self-sufficient or be cut = off?=20

A special legislative commission established last year to study = the=20 impact of welfare reform has met several times and hired a researcher to = review=20 administrative data such as employment records. But, on the eve of the = next wave=20 of ''get tough'' changes, we've had no published reports from this = panel.=20

Welfare reform is one of the largest social experiments ever = conducted=20 in the state. At the time it was enacted in 1995, it affected about = 300,000 of=20 our most vulnerable residents, two-thirds of whom are children. =

As we=20 mark the second anniversary of federal welfare reform - and usher in=20 Massachusetts' fourth year of implementing its own changes - it seems = that we=20 should know more about how the people receiving welfare, and those no = longer on=20 the rolls, are doing.

Instead, we have to look to what other = states are=20 finding to get a glimpse of what is happening. A forthcoming report from = the=20 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research and = policy=20 institute, makes that task easier. It summarizes the findings from = evaluations=20 of earnings and employment outcomes for welfare recipients performed in = 13=20 states.

The studies differ in many ways, including who was = followed=20 (former and current recipients); the time periods of employment that = were=20 evaluated (from one quarter to one year); and how researchers got their=20 information (surveys or looking at unemployment insurance quarterly = records).=20

Still, the results are remarkably similar: The typical former = welfare=20 recipient is employed, working a substantial number of hours, making = poverty=20 wages in a job that has no paid vacation, sick leave, or = employer-sponsored=20 health care.

Studies of former welfare recipients in Indiana, = Maryland,=20 South Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin found that between one-half and = two-thirds=20 of parents were employed soon after leaving the welfare rolls, = regardless of why=20 they left.

In Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Oregon, and = Washington state,=20 researchers found that the majority of current and former recipients = work a=20 substantial numbers of hours a week when they are employed - usually 30 = hours or=20 more.

So far, so good. But before celebrating, stop to consider = what the=20 studies found about how much people are earning.

In Pensacola, = Fla.,=20 three-quarters of former and current recipients earned less than $7 an = hour. The=20 average wage was $6.55 an hour in Minnesota, $7.34 an hour in Portland, = Ore.,=20 and $6.44 in South Carolina. That's hardly enough to support a single = person,=20 let alone a family.

In the studies that looked at total earnings = received over several months (rather than hourly wages when employed),=20 researchers found that the majority had earnings well below poverty = level. In=20 Milwaukee, 75 percent of former recipients had earnings below the = poverty line.=20 In Maryland, the average earnings amounted to $9,500 a year. =

Researchers=20 in Los Angeles, Delaware, Pensacola, Minnesota, and Oregon found that = current=20 recipients, most in state work-demonstration programs, had earnings that = are=20 two-thirds the official poverty line.

These earnings levels = should come=20 as no surprise when you look at the kinds of jobs former recipients = find. More=20 that one-third of former recipients in Maryland were working in = wholesale or=20 retail trade. Almost half of those in South Carolina were in service=20 occupations, mostly in food preparation or lodging establishments. Close = to=20 one-third of the employed former recipients in Milwaukee found jobs in = temporary=20 employment agencies.

And what about ''family-friendly'' policies = at such=20 workplaces? In the four states where researchers looked at whether = employers=20 offered health insurance in the jobs held by working former or current=20 recipients, they found that between 40 and 60 percent did not. The two = studies=20 that asked about vacation and sick leave found that about one-third of = employers=20 offered sick days and less than half had paid vacation time. There was = no=20 provision for mothers who had to miss work because their children were = sick.=20

Even with this set of studies, there is still much we don't = know. Paid=20 work can build self-esteem, but it also conflicts with providing care to = families. What is happening to the children of mothers in the workplace? = Who=20 watches the children when their mothers are working between 30 and 40 = hours a=20 week?

The work many recipients are finding is clearly not what = most of=20 us would consider good, or even stable, work. Are the workplaces safe, = are=20 bosses abusive or exploitative, knowing their women employees have few = choices?=20

And perhaps the scariest questions of all: What is happening to = the=20 ''missing'' recipients - those who have left the rolls but do not turn = up in=20 surveys or on unemployment insurance records? How are they surviving?=20

Massachusetts, like the other states studied, has pursued a = ''work=20 first'' strategy with a vengeance. For those who do find and keep paid=20 employment, welfare reform is translating into a ''working poor = creation''=20 policy. For those who can't find paid employment or can't do paid work, = it is=20 worse than that.

Massachusetts, indeed the nation, has succeeded = in=20 implementing welfare reform but not in addressing the problem of = poverty,=20 especially among women and children. To call this a ''success'' is to = stretch=20 beyond recognition the meaning of the word.

[Randy Albelda is a=20 professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.] =
 
H. C. = Sonny=20 Covington  @  I CAN America
Louisiana Instuite on = Homelessness=20 & Housing
125 S. Buchanan Street - Lafayette, LA  = 70501
(318)=20 235-7005  Fax 318-235-7602 1-877-734-4664
hccovington@usa.net
icanamerica@usa.net
ach1@sprynet.com
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