AP NEWS
Related topics

Seven Percent of Adults on Welfare In Job Training, Education Programs

June 24, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seven percent of the parents on welfare last year were taking classes or training for a job for more than 20 hours a week, according to federal records released Thursday.

Welfare experts in and out of government said the latest numbers illustrate the immense - and expensive - job President Clinton faces fulfilling his promise to provide welfare recipients the education and training to move off the rolls and into a job after two years.

″We still have a long way to go to get to the vision put forth by the president,″ said 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 (AFDC) 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.

Robert Rector, a policy analyst on welfare issues for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the 1992 figures reveal a gap between political rhetoric and reality.

″All politicians talk tough about requiring welfare recipients to work, but only 1 percent of the AFDC recipients are currently required to perform community work service,″ says Rector.

Rector said his analysis of JOBS participation rates found that just 1 percent of AFDC recipients are working or in on-the-job training in exchange for their welfare check.

JOBS participants may also be completing their high school or college educations, in a training program, or looking for work.

The number of JOBS participants last year ranged from 13 in Guam and 113 in Hawaii to 33,991 in California. Other states with large numbers in the program include Michigan, 22,009; New York, 24,549; and Ohio, 26,280.

The acting director of Maryland’s JOBS program, called Project Independence, says the HHS figures do not 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 finish high school but still only read at a sixth grade level. To get them ready for a training program, the state must first improve their reading skills. As a result, some AFDC parents are not counted because they are in literacy classes only six hours a week. Others may be excluded from the count because they are in college classes 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.

Susan Steinmetz, a policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research group that focuses on low-income Americans, 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.