Future of welfare evident on South Shore
One of the largest stories of 1997 has not yet produced dramatic results.
The sweeping reforms of the federal assistance program, approved in 1996, are aimed at reducing dependency by recipients.
However, the reforms are being introduced gradually, and the real impact is yet to be felt in the Tahoe Basin.
In February, able-bodied welfare recipients in Douglas County lost their eligibility for food stamps, but El Dorado County recipients active in welfare-to-work programs retained their eligibility.
Under the new rules passed in August, 1996, able-bodied individuals may receive food stamps for three months of every three-year period.
The real crunch begins Jan. 1, when a lifetime limit of five years for family assistance goes into effect. In California, recipients can receive no more than two years of aid at a time.
In anticipation of the deadline, counties in California have revamped their Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Greater Avenues for Independence programs.
While AFDC consisted largely of cash assistance to single parents – two-thirds of them women – and GAIN emphasized schooling, the county’s new Welfare to Work Program prepares aid recipients for entry-level jobs.
In El Dorado County, casino human resource professionals have teamed up with county welfare specialists, designing an intensive three-week course to assist welfare recipients in their quest for work.
Aid formulas have been liberalized, and will allow recipients to retain a portion of their benefits to supplement the low pay of minimum-wage jobs. And the state has doubled the period, to two years, that family aid recipients are eligible for subsidized child care.
Yet, even before the limit on lifetime benefits begins, knowledge of the pending changes and a robust economy have combined to lower welfare rolls nationwide.
In El Dorado County, rates have been dropping since 1994, according to county welfare officials.
“The word is getting out that term limits are coming,” said Margie Verbeley, an El Dorado employment trainer. “People can’t use aid as a lifestyle anymore.”
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