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A shorter version of this article appears in the Summer 1991 issue of Southern Exposure. ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES AUSTIN, TEXAS 78i31 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip improvements. Many of the disincentives to taking entry-level jobs were reduced \(though, because many reforms weren’t fully implechild care, insurance and transportation assistance to clients during the early part of their employment. The FSA-required JOBS program provides education or vocational training, seeks to match client job skills with job opportunities, and teaches “survival” skills to most AFDC recipients. Texas’ adoption of the AFDC-Unemployed Parent program means that families no longer have to break up in order to receive benefits. But, in typical miserly fashion, the state funded only six months of AFDC-UP benefits, creating a bureaucratic nightmare for caseworkers and recipients alike. A number of other innovative programs have been implemented recently. An automated voice-response phone system should cut the tedious waits on the phone. \(I was put on hold for nine minutes when I called a local welfare office to find out its hours of operanow written in both English and Spanish. Worker training has been revamped to include “people skills.” DHS has launched a number of promising pilot programs, including volunteer mentoring, private industry council cooperative ventures, and better coordination with other agencies. Automation efforts are improving the department and Legislature are aiming to achieve “one-stop shopping” so applicants can gain access to all available forms of assistance without multiple forms, interviews, and trips which should free up caseworkers to spend more time with clients. And the agency has set up local advisory policy review committees composed of recipients, front-line caseworkers, advocates and legal-aid attorneys, and policy planners to periodically provide much-needed feedback to the central offices. Despite the efforts, even after the landmark federal Family Support Act became law in 1988, “the state lawmakers reacted slowly to its requirements,” said Jude Filler. “They never took the responsibility to oversee the new programs, and DHS wouldn’t ask for the support it needed, first because it had been burned [by an earlier controversy over unspent funds], second because Mosbacher was running for Lieutenant Governor [in 1990].” Many human-services advocates believe that candidate Mosbacher deliberately underestimated the surge in caseloads stemming from the reduction in barriers to service \(see “Of Human Services,” TO, asking the Legislature for more money to deal with the vastly increased demands for fear of being pegged as a big spender by his opponent. Mosbacher lost anyway and DHS clients lost needed funds. While acknowledging that the agency still has a long way to go to become more responsive to its constituency, both newly arrived DHS spokesman Mike Jones and veteran policy planner Judy Denton profess seeing “an infusion of new blood,” and “a new attitude” at the agency. Worker turnover appears to be declining, and minority hiring has improved. The new buzzwords are “customer service.” Many of the changes were only implemented last October, so it’s really too early to tell how they’re panning out. Evans cautiously assessed the new regime: “I think over last two years there has been a concerted effort by agency to try to change the image of the department,” he said. “There are still some problems, some of the older people and tiers are still resisting some of the changes, and there are still some regulations and requirements in place that still constitute obstacles to recipients.” But most advocates give the agency credit for trying. Dreams Deferred Meanwhile, caseloads are expected to rise by 150-190 percent over the next few years while a recent report by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities confirms that the safety net for unemployed and disadvantaged Texans remains weak. The only real difference, said welfare recipient Sheila Foscette, is that case workers now push single parents into “McDonalds jobs” that pay even less than welfare. “Why should you have training as a nurse and go be a garbage woman, said Foscette, an artist. “Why should you give up your dream?” The welfare bureaucracy will remain out of touch, she insists, until the bureaucrats come out from behind their desks. “The only way they’re going to get in touch with the people is if they take off their nice suits and dresses, put on some blue jeans, take the bus to the welfare office, go though an appointment, fill out an application, pretend they don’t have any money in their pockets. Then they will understand.” This is Texas today. A state full of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, oil and gas companies, nuclear weapons and power plants, political hucksters, underpaid workers, and toxic wastes, to mention a few. I -.2.; _,,,i p4: ,,,,,,r. ,,,,,4, 41-,:I.,.: :,:. . l’ . -~ 5r. rak :i-A!! *Z1 rwr BUT DO NOT DESPAIR! THE TEXAS server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $27 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $27. 307 West 7th, AUSTIN, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9 ‘,. -,..c.obelowo-vreas,