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Study Targets Welfare in Wisconsin

January 13, 1999

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Most people who left Wisconsin’s welfare rolls during the transition to a work-based system found jobs but said they are just scraping by, a study released Wednesday found.

The study, the state’s first attempt to document how former welfare recipients have fared, found that 83 percent had worked at least part of the time since leaving the rolls in the first three months of 1998.

Sixty-eight percent of former recipients said getting a job was easier than living on welfare, though the same percentage said they were just barely making it financially.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to implement its work-focused program after Congress overhauled welfare regulations in 1996. President Clinton called Wisconsin’s program one of the ``boldest, most revolutionary″ welfare plans in the country.

The study was based on interviews with 375 people who left the rolls of Wisconsin Works, the state’s new welfare-to-work program, or the program it replaced, Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

About 62 percent said they were employed when they were interviewed. Of those who did not have jobs, one-third said they could not find one or did not have the necessary skills or experience.

That raised concerns among advocates for the poor.

``It is a work-based program and you’ve got 38 percent of people who don’t have a job,″ said Anne Arneson, director of the Wisconsin Council for Children and Families. ``That’s quite a lot.″

Those who found work after leaving welfare earned an average of $7.42 an hour, the study said. And 87 percent said they had health insurance, either through Medicaid or through their employers.

Wisconsin Works requires recipients to work or receive job training to receive benefits. In return, the state pays for child care, transportation and other job-related costs. There were 13,818 families in the program in November, less than half the number who were on welfare when the program began in September 1997.

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