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State Sanctions Contribute To Dropping Welfare Rolls

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 23) -- Tens of thousands of welfare recipients across the country have been forced off aid rolls for failing to actively seek employment as required by the 1996 welfare reform bill, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Federal statistics show 38 percent of those who left welfare during one three-month period last year did so because of state penalties. Those recipients could have been sanctioned for any number of violations, ranging from missing appointments with a caseworker to refusing to look for work, according to the Post.

The nation's strong economy and new reform regulations have been credited for the nation's shrinking welfare rolls, down 18 percent over the past year.

Sanctions account for a significant percentage of falling caseloads in some states. In Indiana, more than half of the 14,248 cases closed during a three-month period last year were a result of sanctions. Of the 148,000 cases closed in Florida during the last half of 1997, 27 percent were because of state penalties.

State officials cite the high number of sanctions as evidence the reforms are working as intended, forcing people to come forward if they had unreported jobs, and showing recipients they can not receive aid indefinitely without preparing themselves for work.

But advocates for the poor argue the strict punishment is hurting the children of aid recipients who lose their benefits.

The Post's survey gathered figures from welfare offices nationwide. They are among the earliest statistics available on the impact of the 1996 federal welfare law.

Another report shows that it may not be so easy for welfare recipients to find jobs. A New York state survey, reported in the New York Times Monday, showed only 29 percent of recipients found full- or part-time work between July 1996 and March 1997.

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Monday March 23, 1998

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