In the end, children may be hurt most by welfare changes
July 25, 1996
From Correspondent Greg LaMotte
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Michelle Moore used to work in the aerospace industry before she was laid off in 1991. She got a new job as a teacher's assistant, but was laid off from that job about the same time that she learned she was pregnant.
Now, at 28, Moore finds herself unemployed and trying to take care of her 4-month-old baby on the welfare she receives. She gets $575 a month from the government, including food stamps -- one quarter of what she made while she was working.
"To me it's a way of surviving. It's a way for me not to be sleeping right here in the park with my baby. That's what it means to me," Moore said.
"I have enough to pay rent and to buy diapers, make my diapers last and I don't have enough to do anything else with it."
Congress is on the verge of passing what it calls welfare reform legislation. Both versions of the House and Senate bills limit lifetime welfare assistance to five years per family and require recipients to work after two years. Twenty percent of families, however, could qualify for hardship exemptions from the time limits.
Of the 13 million Americans receiving welfare benefits in the United States, the majority are white; 37 percent are black. Two-thirds of them are children, and half of them are under the age of 5.
Given such statistics, many wonder who is really affected by the proposed welfare changes -- and a large group of advocates for the poor say children are the ones who will suffer if the current reform package is passed.
"Welfare is primarily a children's program. Seventy percent of all of the recipients of welfare are children, and children are the ones who are going to be the most hurt if their parents are denied assistance," according to Sherri Dunn Berry of Children Now.
Jobs and child care
Susan Einbinder, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, suggested welfare reform changes that could "change welfare as we know it."
"If they want to get women off of welfare, they have to create jobs for them. If they want men to be economically responsible for their children, then men have to have jobs. If they want women with children to work, they need child care. If they want men with children to work, they need child care," Einbinder said.
However, the reforms being considered by Congress don't include the creation of jobs. Instead, much of the welfare burden would be shifted to the individual states.
Part of the welfare reforms under consideration would deny legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens access to food stamps, cash welfare and Medicaid. In immigrant-rich California, there is serious concern about where these people will get help.
"Those populations that become ineligible to federally funded programs will have to be served somewhere," said John Clemons of the Los Angeles County Department of Social Public Services.
"As things stand, they would become or potentially would become eligible to receive general relief, which is a locally funded program without any federal or state participation in the funding."
Those involved with welfare reform say Congress' plan isn't really reform at all -- it's budget cutting. Ultimately, they say, children will be the ones who pay the price.
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