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even in a low-benefit state such as Texas a minimum wage job with no benefits will clearly leave a single parent with young children worse off than she would be on welfare and well below the federal poverty line. WELFARE REFORM WHAT IS TEXAS doing about all of this? So far, not much. Not only does the state provide minimal welfare benefits, it does even less to help people pull themselves out of poverty through education and training. Although the original philosophy underlying welfare was to protect unemployable widows, it’s long been recognized that merely doling out money to the new poor doesn’t address the fundamental problems of poverty. So Texas currently operates three programs \(the Work Incentive Demo, Job Training Partnership put the poor to work. But a recent statistical study by the Bureau of Business Research concluded that these programs fail to get the hard-core unemployed off the welfare rolls. That’s because they’re “low-intensity” programs, which usually provide little more than so-called “job-search” assistance. \(High-intensity even in those too-rare cases where an employer will hire someone through job search, he or she is likely to be back on welfare within a year, because of a lack of essential job skills. The study concluded that most of those who do find and keep jobs probably would have gotten them anyway, because they possess the work experience or basic skills employers require. Enter the federal government. Recognizing that high-intensity programs like those in California and Massachusetts do help people get off welfare, Congress addressed job training in its welfare reform bill last fall. \(Most of the bill’s provisions take effect policy in three areas: child support, job training, and transition services. And by sharing the cost of many such benefits with states on a 60 percent/40 percent basis, the national government offers states a carrot as well as a stick for complying. In the first area, requiring more stringent child support efforts, Texas has entered the public discussion, thanks to Attorney General Jim Mattox’s crusade against deadbeat spouses. Nevertheless, the state still needs to augment its enforcement efforts, because every dollar not paid by delinquent spouses is another dollar the state may have to spend to permit mothers to afford child care. And even so, those single parents who are demonstrably poor but not poor enough to receive AFDC must still impoverish themselves by hiring a private attorney to collect child support. It is in the two other major areas job training and transition services that the state faces newer challenges. Federal welfare reform eliminated many but not all of the disincentives faced by AFDC recipients who want to go back to work. All states are now required to offer benefits to two-parent families, removing the incentive for fathers to leave the home so that the kids can receive benefits. The Family Support Act also requires the states to extend Medicaid coverage to recipients for up to a year after they find a job, removing another disincentive loss of medical insurance. And it provides transition funding for child care and transportation benefits so that the newly employed aren’t immediately cut off from the support system. Conservatives assume that people want to get on welfare not off Conservatives such as Charles Murray, author of Losing Ground, have attacked transition benefits on the grounds that the working poor will be encouraged to go on welfare to get health benefits, and once enticed, will be forever entrapped. Such claims, which may also arise in the legislature, are based on the assumption that people don’t want to work. But a Louis Harris report released this January “decisively refutes the notion that the people in the underclass have no desire to lift themselves out of poverty. Results of the survey indicate that the members of the underclass are desperately eager to improve their lot and are willing to make great sacrifices to do it,” according to Harris. The report is based on interviews with welfare recipients; conservative critics seldom bother to actually talk to such people. Survey after survey of welfare cases reveal that people want long-term jobs and a chance to be productive. Some obstacles remain; low wages, lack of child care and employer-paid health insurance, for example. But the bill represents an important step for Texas because, for the first time, the state will be required to provide transition services at a high standard, or face a loss of federal funding. Federal welfare reform requires each state to operate a Job Opportunities and Basic find employment for AFDC recipients. Over seven years, the states will be entitled to receive $6.8 billion in federal matching funds to pay for employment and training activities. Most of the federal dollars are targeted toward people who have the hardest time finding a job. Mothers of young children are required to participate. We know that many high-intensity programs, such as Creative Rapid Learning Centers that teach basic skills, really work to help people find jobs. But they cost money and many state leaders are going to be surprised to find out just how much. One Capitol Hill insider familiar with the negotiations leading to the passage of welfare reform last year noted that the true cost of the bill was concealed through an accounting gimmick. It seems that the Congressional Budget Office only estimates on a five-year time horizon, but many participation quotas don’t have to be filled until 1994. The cost to the state and federal governments could be enormous up to $10,000 per slot for job training, where the “official” estimates are $900 to $1200 per slot. Of course, conservatives did extract a price for all this proposed new spending: workfare, the most controversial part of the package. Starting in 1994, one adult in each two-parent welfare household must participate in a job search, and if they don’t find private sector employment in 60 days, they must work 16 hours a week in a stateorganized work activity. Workfare opponents have derided “slavefare” because it really doesn’t do much to boost long-term job prospects, particularly if it comes, as it has in the past, at the expense of useful training and education. Some conservative state leaders view it as a means of punishing the victims of poverty by making them mop the floors in the Capitol and other activities not likely to enhance a resume. One long-time human services activist says: “You’ll see people use work programs in two different ways. Reformers want to use work as a means of skills training, to make people employable. Others want to use work as a method of weeding people out of the program, to pick up trash on the highway, as [State Rep.] Jim Rudd likes to say. It has nothing to do with making people employable.” Still, it can’t be denied tha’t the federal workfare requirement brought along essential political support, both from President Reagan, who made it a condition of his approval, and from taxpayers, who, being largely unfamiliar with the reality of unemployment, require some evidence of sacrifice by the poor. Moreover, the bill attempts to ensure that states offer workfare as a supplement to, not a replacement for, real training programs. Even the humanitarian Senator Parmer supports it, at least for two-parent households. “It gives [recipients] an opportunity to contribute [and] a better personal image, which is an important part of getting them back in the work force. They’ll think well of themselves if they’re working.” In sum, the Family Support Act is “an enormous opportunity,” says a Washington staffer who was involved in the process. “It THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 rrn-e0r , oti