Welfare plan receives green light | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Welfare plan receives green light

California welfare officials have given final approval to El Dorado County’s welfare reform plan that requires recipients to participate in work training programs and sets lifetime limits on benefits.

And, according to a university study of the reform plans of every state, California’s new welfare system will improve the economic status of recipients weaned off the system.

El Dorado supervisors approved the reform package on Jan. 6, following the state’s passage of CalWORKS. The state reform program corresponds to the federal law by limiting aid recipients to two years of cash benefits at one time and five years in a lifetime. Exceptions to the time limits are possible if insufficient jobs exist.

El Dorado’s plan requires single parents to participate 20 hours a week in welfare-to-work programs, with the requirement increasing to 26 hours on July 1 and 32 hours by the end of the year. Recipients in two-parent households are required to participate for 35 hours a week immediately.

The county plan also allows new parents to stay home for the first six months following the birth of a child, with extensions to one year possible depending on the availability of infant care and other considerations.

“Every new person coming in now is being enrolled in CalWORKS,” said Keith Light, who oversees the county’s reform planning.

Yet, with caseloads dropping because of a strong economy and looming time limits, the county’s budget for job training and other welfare reform programs has not been strained, Light added.

Starting on the first of the year, new recipients in El Dorado County were limited to 18 months of cash aid at one time. Those who were already receiving aid, now known as Transitional Assistance for Needy Families, can continue receiving benefits for two years, and the clock won’t start until they are enrolled in the welfare-to-work programs in March.

Time limits on benefits can be extended if the county certifies that not enough jobs exist, provided the recipients are willing to perform tasks for public or private nonprofit agencies.

With a doubling of state child-care aid for welfare recipients participating in CalWORKS and generous earned income deductions, the county’s reform program is intended to improve the economic condition of recipients as soon as they re-enter the workplace.

California’s welfare reform program received high marks this week in a study by Tufts University’s Center on Hunger and Poverty.

Evaluating the reform programs of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the study rated California fourth in its program’s probable impact on the living standard of welfare recipients. California was one of just 14 states that adopted new welfare policies that should help recipients rise above poverty, concluded the study that was released Monday.

J. Larry Brown, director of the Tufts center that conducted the study, expressed disappointment that a majority of states adopted policies that probably will frustrate the hopes of their poorest residents.

“Given all the hopeful talk about states doing a better job than the federal government, the data shows that most states actually are making things worse,” Brown said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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