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More Than 1,500 May Have Welfare Benefits Cut, Figures Show

October 27, 1988

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Welfare checks may be cut next month for more than 1,500 families whose teen-agers refused to go to school this fall, a state official said Thursday.

Silvia Jackson, director of the state Bureau of Economic Assistance, said the families of 1,549 youths face cuts in Aid To Families With Dependent Children benefits Nov. 1 under the state’s Learnfare program. The program uses the threat of welfare cuts as an incentive for teen-agers to stay in school.

″The number who face sanctions is not surprising. In fact, it could have been much higher,″ said Jackson. She added that the 1,549 teen-agers represent only about 5 percent of the 30,029 youths in the state, ages 13 to 19, affected by Learnfare.

The latest figure, however, was more than triple the number of teen-agers whose families’ benefits were reduced when Learnfare began in the spring for 13- and 14-year-olds. The monthly number affected in that age group in March, April and May ranged from 395 to 423.

In September, the full program took effect, encompassing 15- to 19-year- olds as well. Of the 1,549 teen-agers facing reduced family benefits, 1,073 are in the 15-19 age group, 296 are teen-age parents and 180 are 13-14, Jackson said.

Benefit cuts will be delayed for those who appeal their cases to the state by Nov. 1, she said.

Learnfare, passed by the Legislature last year, requires that benefits be cut for each month teen-age welfare recipient fails to enroll in or attend school regularly.

Jackson said the average monthly check for a family is $517. A teen-ager who violates Learnfare rules cuts the benefit an average $103.

Learnfare supporters argue that children from welfare families stand a better chance of staying off the dole as adults if they are required to go to school.

One Learnfare director, Dan Kittel of Dane County, said he was surprised that only 53 of 841 teen-agers affected by Learnfare face sanctions in his county, which includes Madison.

″We met with AFDC parents of 15- to 17-year-olds this summer who feared benefit reductions over something they felt they really couldn’t control,″ he said.

But he said his office is not getting as many complaints as staffers expected.

In Milwaukee County, which has the bulk of cases facing sanctions, program director Delores Parr said 1,133 teen-agers face benefit cuts. Of those, 860 are ages 15-19, 147 are teen-age parents and 126 are 13-14.

Last spring, Milwaukee County also accounted for the bulk of benefit cuts when the program handled 13- and 14-year-olds, she said.

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