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7 Percent on Welfare in Job Training, Education Programs

June 25, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Just 7 percent of adult welfare recipients are working, taking classes or training for a job, federal records show.

Welfare experts say the figures illustrate the immense and expensive job President Clinton faces in meeting his promise to give welfare recipients the education, training and child care they need to go to work after two years on the rolls.

″We still have a long way to go to get to the vision put forth by the president,″ says an official of the Department of Health and Human Services, speaking on condition of anonymity.

HHS records show that 310,754 recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children were enrolled in the JOBS training program for at least 20 hours a week last year, accounting for 7 percent of the 4.4 million adults on the rolls.

A year earlier, 262,977 AFDC recipients were in JOBS - or Job Opportunities for Basic Skills, for 20 hours a week. Congress created the JOBS program in 1988, but exempted some AFDC parents from the requirements if they have young children or a disability.

Robert Rector, a policy analyst on welfare issues for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the latest figures reveal the chasm between political rhetoric and reality.

″Welfare can no longer be a one-way handout,″ Rector said. ″Recipients must be required to work for the benefits they get. But until now, politicians have been misleading the public about their alleged efforts to require welfare recipients to work.″

The acting director of Maryland’s JOBS program, called Project Independence, says the HHS figures don’t reflect the true number of families receiving education and training because only those enrolled for 20 hours a week are counted.

In Maryland, said Charlene Gallion, some AFDC recipients have finished high school but still only read at a sixth-grade level. To get them ready for a training program, the state must first help them improve their reading skills.

As a result, some AFDC parents in the JOBS program aren’t counted because they’re in literacy classes for only six hours a week. Others may be excluded because they’re in college classes for nine hours a week.

″We are committed to supplying our clients in Maryland with skills training, something that prepares them for a living wage, not running them through a hoop just to meet participation requirements,″ Gallion said.

Jeff Myers, of the Indiana JOBS program, agrees, saying: ″It’s just not appropriate to have someone who functions at a fifth-grade level in a job readiness workshop.″

Susan Steinmetz, a policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the 1992 numbers should come as no surprise, given the limited amount of money set aside for the program.

States, their budgets stretched by economic hard times and rising welfare caseloads, have only come up with enough matching money to use about two- thirds of the $1 billion in federal funds set aside for JOBS.

″To provide education and job training to a larger percentage of this population would take significantly more money than Congress and the states have allocated,″ said Steinmetz, whose research organization focuses on issues affecting the low-income Americans.