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gives those states who want to do a good job the tools to do it. But those states who genuinely want to do nothing can still get away with it. And Texas has a tradition of doing the least it can get away with.” It’s ironic that while conservatives insisted on workfare provisions for so-called “deadbeat” welfare recipients, they still permitted deadbeat state legislatures to evade their own responsibility to their unemployed citizens. So if the FSA is a step in the right direction, it’s up to the legislature to decide just how far Texas will g6 down the road to welfare reform. WHAT TEXAS SHOULD DO THE EXPERIENCE of the last 20 years has taught some distinct lessons about what gets people off welfare and what doesn’t. At least some consensus has emerged witness the bipartisan support for Congressional welfare reform last year. Informed observers agree that a truly effective state welfare system would include the following features: 1.A flexible job training and education program. This would mean job search for the job-ready, subsidized on-the-job training and brush-up training for those who possess some skills, and remediation in basic skills for the estimated 70 percent of AFDC recipients who need it. “What Texas should do is make efforts to see that each AFDC recipient has at least high school equivalency,” says a U.S. Senate staffer involved with welfare policy. “They need to look at what jobs will be needed by year 2000 and design training programs to give people those skills.” The aide also cautions that Texas avoid the Jobs Training Partnership Act model, in which most jobs were deadend workfare, with a system so complicated that people couldn’t follow all the rules and then were cut off. Rep. Vowell emphasizes that education includes more than learning to use a calculator. “We’ve got to get people to look at their lives in the long term, to have some life goals, to plan their families,” he says. “If you have a baby every year for five years, you can’t do that with that kind of burden. We have to convince young people not to do things that are going to make their lives difficult. Target teenage boys, too. Get the kids educated and trained and give them a sense of social responsibility and then give them incentives to provide them with the proper motivation. Kids aren’t dumb. They look at a crack dealer and a janitor and they know who drives the Cadillacs.” 2.A kinder, gentler Department of Human Services. The DHS will play the leading role in administering welfare reform. Yet the agency, in the view of some critics, has tended to set up niggling barriers to employment. “The state has done just about everything it can do to make welfare demeaning for recipients,” reports one legislative staffer with the agency. “They call landlords to verify information, cancel appointments if the recipient is only minutes late, forcing them to wait another month for another, throw in delays all through the system. . . . It really hurts their selfimage.” Legislative attention and the efforts of new DHS chairman Rob Mosbacher have forced DHS to begin to clean up its act recently, but recipients report long waits, impossible documentation requirements, and dehumanizing treatment from the understaffed department. \(To be fair, DHS should be given credit for setting up three high-intensity pilot programs in three cities 3 .Help from the private sector. By many accounts, the business community hasn’t been much help to the state. Says one Job Training is the key to real welfare reform legislative aide, “I’d like to see a greater understanding in the business community an increased willingness by the private sector to hire graduates of these training programs and open up avenues of employment. They really haven’t cared much about giving these people an opportunity.” A cynic might observe that business leaders could support job training for selfish reasons the surplus labor pool can’t exert downward pressure on wages if lack of basic skills leaves them effectively unemployable. 4.Coherent planning. Says Rep. Vowell, a leader in reform efforts: “What Texas needs as much as anything is a cohesive plan, so we don’t have five different agencies working on the fringes of the same problem. It’d be nice to have a single place where someone who needs these services could go. We’ve made great strides in that area, but we still have too many autonomous groups working around the edges of what’s really one problem. We also need a reliable statewide needs assessment.” Such planning could result in more money available for training programs, according to Karen Langley. “There’s lots of federal funds scattered throughout various programs. For instance, there’s a dropout prevention fund available and the state isn’t using the money. We have to make a concerted effort to use all these funds.” A comprehensive state plan could do that, at little cost to state budget coffers. The governor’s office has begun efforts to formulate a strategic plan for coordinating education and training services. 5.Spend money. The Family Support Act leaves the states a lot of wiggle room, choices about how much they will spend on various aspects of the program. The effectiveness of reform depends to a great extent on how much the state is willing to invest. That’s why, despite the FSA’s good intentions, some activists, like Lin Team, aren’t optimistic. “We still have to provide funds, especially to fill the gaps, like child care, in the present system. Texas is going to have to ante up, and we haven’t shown the willingness to do that in the past.” Indeed the Legislative Budget Board this year recommended funding only the minimum participation levels required by the welfare reform act. One human-needs activist who prefers to remain anonymous thinks that inadequate efforts might be worse than none at all. “When you’re talking about welfare reform, it’s just like All the President’s Men: ‘follow the money.’ The key is the money who’s willing to put money into the system to make it work? We shouldn’t do it if we’re not going to do it right, because it won’t work. All these issues [day care, job training, benefits] are interwoven, all the pieces have to be filled in.” PROSPECTS THE BIGGEST ROADBLOCK to such comprehensive reform is the fact that federal reform does not require the legislature to act. If it doesn’t, DHS will submit a plan to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which will then write regulations. “The Legislature has a tendency to sit back if it’s not required to do something,” says Senator Parmer. “But I’d rather have the legislature determine our policy. . . . I’m afraid the [DHS] Board will be more cautious than I am. I think we ought to take full advantage of the opportunity this new law gives us.” To that end, Parmer is drafting a bill assuring that job training and education be made available to a far larger group than now receives them. He favors extending the Medicaid coverage to AFDC families for a full year after they find entry-level work, instead of the federally allowed six-month minimum. He also favors boosting Texas’s pathetically low monthly stipend from $57 to $61. “I don’t think that’s going to be terribly expensive. We ought to have in mind a goal of getting every able-bodied person receiving welfare in a productive job. That’ll save money in the long run.” He’s investigating the possibility of attaching some welfare reform proposals to Lt. Gov. Hobby’s anti-crime package. Of course, getting people into jobs will help cut crime, and an anti-crime package will be more politically popular than a straight welfare bill. The other major player, DHS board chairman Rob Mosbacher \(who reportedly played an important behind-the-scenes role viewing spending on training programs as an investment, and the sooner made, the better. DHS is expected to ask for a 27.5. 10 MARCH 24, 1989 JerIlist ,..”*”?,.,