Advertisement

Pennsylvania's welfare

February 09, 1999

The Pennsylvania welfare-reform bill that took 130,000 families off the public-assistance rolls will be two years old next month, but there probably won't be any celebration. State officials will soon face the tough job of deciding how to handle the system's toughest cases.

The law states that those who have been on welfare for 24 consecutive months will be pushed out of the program unless they are working at least 20 hours a week, or spending a like amount of time doing community service or receiving job training.

That doesn't sound like a burdensome requirement, but for a single mother in a rural area without her own automobile, it might be nearly impossible. Democratic leaders want additional protection for such recipients written into the law, while Republicans, including officials of Gov. Tom Ridge's administration, say that there are plenty of safeguards right now.

Caseworkers will meet with each recipient face-to-face, administration officials said, and give them every chance to provide they're complying with the law before any benefits are terminated. Administration officials note that the 1999-200 budget contains plenty of cash to help recipients make the transition from welfare to the working world.

Advertisement

About $78 million in federal block grant funds is earmarked for additional training programs, child care and transportation. And while $33 million in state funds will fund 16,000 temporary minimum-wage jobs, the state's subsidized child-care program has been increased to $376 million.

If there is a flaw in the system, it's the requirement that the entire family loses benefits after two years if the head of the household fails to show up for appointments with a caseworker, or refuses to search for a job. Given most social workers' reluctance to recommend termination of parental rights in such cases, the state may have to choose between watching the homeless population increase, or bend the two-year rule. Those who find the choice unacceptable will have to console themselves by looking at how much progress has been made so far.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|