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herald editorial - 12/12/01

December 27, 2001

If legislators cut, it's up to non-profits



It will be a hard year for the poor in West Virginia, if a legislative proposal to cut the state's welfare budget is accepted by Gov. Bob Wise. If so, private individuals and non-profits will have to be ready to bridge the gap.

Wise got the report from the a group called the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Advisory Council, which spent three months looking at ways to trim $90 million from the state's welfare budget.

Spared were almost all of the funds committed to providing direct cash payments of $453 a month to struggling families. But lawmakers recommended chopping half of the funds that had been earmarked for support services for the working poor.

Those items that would be cut include child care, workforce advocacy, education and transportation. Some of those funds could be restored if the legislature adds more cash and if the department can be administered more efficiently.

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Poor administration is what got the state into this dilemma, and after a period in which federal funding provided a cushion for the department, state officials say a looming shortage is forcing cutbacks. They also worry that if the economy doesn't rebound, further cuts may be necessary.

What all this means in practical terms is that it will be more difficult for those people trying to move from welfare to a job that pays enough to raise a family. More low-wage jobs don't provide child care and without transportation help, some who might otherwise work will be unable to do so.

Lacking that support system, people who've been making progress might become dependent on government stipends again. That's not what was envisioned when welfare reform was passed.

What happens next will depend on whether individuals ands communities stand up and help the people who are trying to break the cycle of welfare dependence. Ending welfare was easier than most people envisioned. Now it appears that getting former recipients to the next step will be more difficult that everyone anticipated.

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