Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Help People Help Themselves Helping Our Economy: An Idea Even Republicans Should Like

It is generally good that so many people are leaving the public assistance rolls and finding employment and educational opportunities. The healthy economy has helped enable this. It is, though, premature to declare this program a success. We need to see whether people leaving public assistance are able to remain off assistance and to enter careers with increasing incomes.

Unfortunately, our government is doing little to determine whether people leaving public assistance in fact no longer need assistance. Perhaps government officials wish to declare victory in reducing the numbers of people receiving public assistance. It is crucial we learn what happens to these people afterwards. It is also important we learn what happens should we enter a recession when job creation decreases.

We need to follow what happens to people leaving public assistance in order to determine whether additional actions could benefit. Some people will find later job skills training or career counseling beneficial to remaining off public assistance. There will likely be matters such as the availability of child care or transportation to areas with employment which, if addressed, will assist many. We need to learn who needs such help.

It is very important we learn whether people leaving public assistance achieve upwards mobility. It does not help matters should former public assistance recipients exist permanently in low wage jobs or experience frequent periodic unemployment.

So far, evidence indicates that people leaving public assistance have generally found jobs in the range of $6 per hour to $8 per hour. This is below the wages needed to sustain livable conditions, which are in the $11 per hour to $13 per hour range. Also, studies are finding that one third to one half of people leaving public assistance have no employment two months after leaving public assistance. This is an important indicator there are major difficulties with welfare reform.

Information on people leaving public assistance be tracked and that efforts be coordinated to assist them when they experience future problems. There is no benefit to a welfare reform program removing people from public assistance only to have them later need help. More lives, and future tax dollars, can be saved if this simple but important idea is carried forth.


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