These were comments I submitted when Washington State held its first public hearings on the Welfare Reform (more popularly known as Welfare Deform) implementation. Unfortunately, in spite of assurances from the platform that I had good points and they would be addressed, most of these still remain problems in Washington States Work First Program as of January 14, 1998.

  1. I am all for welfare reform. For the sake of us all, I am for eliminating poverty, restoring human dignity, solving the problems that keep people from getting living-wage jobs, and helping people be productive. I will support any program aimed at those goals.

    This program, as presently designed, seems aimed at cutting the caseload in the short term, not at getting people out of poverty and keeping them out of poverty in the long term.

  2. I have spent time in homeless shelters. I lived there with people who worked full time. Working full-time in minimum-wage jobs will not keep you in housing or out of need for any public assistance for you or your children. The present program aims to 'move the recipient immediately into whatever employment the recipient is capable of handling' -- which in most cases will be low-paid, minimum-training work. What provisions are there for upgrading a recipient's employment level until they can stay off welfare?

  3. The draft program says recipients will be assessed upon completion of an initial job search. Many people are unemployable (at least initially) for reasons that are not immediately visible. I, and several of my friends, can work only when we take medication. Other people I know have been able to go to work only after literacy or other training but could not even complete a job application before it. What procedures will address these situations?

    NOTE) In reference to both of the above points -- in the public meeting on June 25, we were assured that long-term help to upgrade employment level, and pre-job-search-screening, would be a part of the implemented program. My comments deal with the program as presently written, and will stand until I see the modifications in writing. (As of January 14, 1998, this is still not provided.)

  4. It may sound good to talk about a 'fluid' program with a 'common-sense' and 'case-by-case- approach, but as the case of the young woman who testified that her child-care and education benefits had been affected -- although Phyllis Lowe said it shouldn't have happened -- there is a great deal of confusion in the bureaucracy as to how this program is to be implemented. That confusion will stand until clear guidelines in writing are issued.

  5. How are the children in poverty going to be protected, and kept from growing up in poverty to continue the cycle of poverty, whether or not their parents get employment or fulfill all program provisions? As presently designed, the entire family is sanctioned if an adult violates the program provisions. Abandoning children is not only inhumane, it is irrational, if the intent of the program is to create productive citizens, and improve the overall economy.

  6. I understand that in the program as presently designed, people over 20 may not get help in completing a high-school education. This seems very short-sighted to me, if the intent is to get more people productively employed and out of poverty.

  7. How can you possibly monitor employers, to prevent them from firing workers that they have to pay a full wage to, in order to hire workers they don't have to pay a full wage to?

  8. Most people want to go to work. You are acknowledging that. You are asking for input from the community. This is good. But if you really want to know how to make your programs work, ask the recipients. If you are demanding that they take responsibility for their lives, incorporate that into your program. Ask them what they need. What channels do you have in place for getting and using input from the recipients in your program?

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The Bird Homeless