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Comedian Isn’t Laughing at GOP Plans To Cut Welfare

December 5, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Whoopi Goldberg, once on welfare herself, teamed with Sen. Edward Kennedy at a Senate forum set up like a TV talk show Tuesday to blast proposed Republican cuts in federal aid programs.

Using a cordless microphone, the comedian worked her way around a Senate hearing room filled with children to talk to middle class families about how assistance programs had bridged financial gaps in their lives.

Michael and Melanie Daniel of Grand Forks, N.D., for example, worked multiple part-time jobs and still couldn’t feed their two kids without food stamps. The assistance kept them going so they could continue their education and get off welfare, Mrs. Daniel said.

Jae Weiss of Santa Clara, Calif., turned to Aid to Dependent Children to escape from her abusive husband and hide with her young son. ``I was able to rely on that little bit of money, $400 a month, for about six months,″ she said. ``It would have cost far more to bury me.″

Goldberg said she, too, depended on welfare 10 years ago as a single mother, before her show business career took off.

``The welfare system works. I know it works because I’m here,″ she said. ``It gave me enough time to do what I had to do the way I could do it and keep some self-esteem.″

``I resent strongly the notion that the government is being drained by people on welfare,″ she said.

The program, which also included Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman, simulated a Senate hearing, but reflected only Kennedy’s point of view. As ranking Democrat on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, the Massachusetts senator has been a longtime defender of government programs for families living on the financial edge.

The GOP drive for a balanced budget includes replacing various federal programs with block grants that state officials can use as they see fit for welfare recipients.

``Fifty states will have 50 different rules, as opposed to being a United States,″ said Kennedy.

Now among the highest paid Americans, Goldberg criticized the Republican plan to cut taxes in exchange for federal program cuts.

``I make a lot of money,″ said Goldberg. ``I would love a tax cut, but I’m not looking to take it at this cost.″

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