ing program, one is disabled and two are not seeking work. Of the members of the last group, more than half have never been employed or are at least 45 years old. From these statistics, it is difficult to justify the claim that AFDC recipients are a bunch of sluggards. There is also an assumption that Texas taxpayers are burdened with spending too much to care for the poor and are spending unwisely. Currently Texas, as the fourth wealthiest state, spends about $10 million per month on AFDC payments made to a total of 270,000 people, 86,000 of whom are adults. The average family of three receives $105 per month, a level which is less than 75 % of a need standard which was calculated in 1969. According to a joint Brown-Geistweidt report, Texas can no longer afford to fund AFDC at such “expensive levels.” The proposed legislation \(CSSB 17 and sors, save Texas $18 million in a future biennium. The sponsors of the bill claim widespread support. They say that both Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and Sen. Chet Health and Human Resources committee to which the senate bill was referred, support the concept. In the House, Geistweidt aide Rocky Mountain said that both Speaker Gib Lewis and Appropriahave indicated their support. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill with chair, Rep. Mary Polk, as a cosponsor. Mountain said, “I think the bill has a real good chance of passing. This is a plan which would move people off the welfare rolls in a very compassionate way.” HOWEVER, several legislators and citizen group representatives have expressed harsh criticisms of the proposal for several reasons. These include the vagueness of the bill’s language, the unreliability of DHR’s cost estimates, and the morality of forcing people to work for two months with no pay. And some analysts have said the bill is just plain bad. They say there are financial incentives for companies to hire participants for the wage subsidies and the tax deductions and then fire them and get another AFDC client. The fact that the program graduates become eligible for unemployment insurance, a payment which might exceed their AFDC grant, could provide an incentive to what is perceived as the target population those who could work but don’t work to quit their jobs. The program may also funnel money from existing services. Clarence Johnson, of the Poverty, Education and Research Association, who offered testimony at the committee hearing on the bill, told the Observer, “We have numerous problems with the bill. During the two-month training a person is unpaid. DHR never defined what the training would be like because they don’t have the money; there is no assurance that this will really be quality training. I think there is also an ethical problem when someone is forced to work without wages. Employment involves a contract; if one side is being forced, they’re being taken advantage of.” Because the day-care and transportation part of the program is funded by using grant money that could be or has been used elsewhere, the pilot could have a failure built into it, said LBJ Public Affairs School researcher Carl Reynolds. “The widespread support for HB 1299 is almost certainly contingent upon the claim that no additional appropriations will be needed. This posture fails to make explicit the cost of opportunities foregone for the funds involved,” he said. In these tight economic times, when a lot of people are actively pursuing work, spending state money and worker hours to hire people who may not be able or want to work is bound to elicit some grumbling from those non-AFDC recipients who would welcome some assistance. a former welfare caseworker, had the harshest criticism for the bill. “Their program is totally unrealistic; it ignores the facts of today’s economic climate, where people who been in the work force for years are being laid off,” he said. “They are failing to look at the actual characteristics of AFDC recipients,” added Whitmire. He went on to explain that the hard-core AFDC recipients at whom the program is directly targeted, and who are often second and third generation welfare recipients who maybe can’t read and can’t write, still won’t be employable after the six months. “It takes years of training to learn the work ethic alone,” he said. “We aren’t just born with the motivation to go out and work; we learn it. Even something as basic as keeping eight to five hours is something that must be learned over time.” Whitmire also expressed doubt that Brown and Geistweidt have any real concern for the needs of recipients but are only interested in cutting off state support. “Knowing the politics of both those people, I’d be willing to bet that both sponsors voted against lifting the ceiling on AFDC grants passed last session. They don’t have genuine concern for the recipient. We never do enough for those people to really help them get out of their situation; we only give them enough to barely survive. ” At $105 per month, it is clear that an AFDC grant does not pro vide subsistence, only a little assistance. These numbers lend support to Johnson’s claim that, “this is just a version of conservative thinking that the way to solve unemployment is to get rid of the federal minimum wage.” They also indicate that it would be in a company’s interest to have as many of these participants as possible. This poses a threat to the job security of the participant and also acts to drive non-AFDC clients at the minimum wage level out of the market because it is more expensive for the company to hire them. This formula, while it does eliminate state financial responsibility, shifts the burden to the federal government because tax revenues will decrease. The idea of reducing AFDC rolls is certainly laudable, but mandatory participation is politically unrealistic and is simply not the most efficient expenditure of state dollars. There is evidence that a program can be quite successful on a voluntary basis. Lupe Anguiano, a San Antonio attorney, started one such program several years ago after a group of AFDC mothers showed up at the AFDC county offices, demanding jobs and not checks. The governor’s office has drafted a rewrite of the bills which would implement the program on a voluntary basis. The governor’s plan would also provide nine months of paid training, would not subsidize the company with the participant’s AFDC grant, and would be funded with Job Training Partnership Act money. Making the program voluntary would also eliminate the major opposition to the bill and would probably result in a higher success rate. Should this legislation pass, the really big winners would be the corporations, who would have a ready supply of subsidized workers. The state of Texas would win some because they would have fewer AFDC grants to pay each month. The federal government would lose out on some tax revenues because participating corporations can take advantage of tax deductions by hiring program participants. The participants themselves may gain valuable job experience, but because of the structure of the tax credits and the AFDC subsidy, they may find themselves unemployed sooner than they had hoped. The really big losers, should this bill pass, are the masses of men and women, recently laid off, who are out on the streets every day looking for work at the minimum wage level. These people, who would leap at the prospect of state assistance in job placement, would essentially be driven out of the minimum wage job market because they are not government-subsidized workers. 17 THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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