How two working mothers feel the squeeze of a tighter welfare budget

Maxine is hunting for a second job this week, to supplement her full-time job with the state of Massachusetts. Rosemarie, a mother of three, is considering moving from her modest house to an apartment. They haven't received the official word yet, but they kow from reading the newspapers that their welfare checks will stop coming soon.

Both women wonder why working mothers are being hardest hit by the human services budget cuts which take effect Oct. 1. Nonworking recipients will retain most of their benefits under the new welfare laws. But the eligibility rules will change so that much of the working welfare population will earn a little too much to qualify for aid -- and a bit too little to live on.

Both are deeply concerned about what will happen to their children when the families are dropped from the rolls of the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

"My Daughter [Michelle, 12] isn't going to see me," Maxine says. A second job seems to be the only way to recoup the $199 in welfare she will lose each month.

"I was just about to get off [welfare]," she says. "I would have had enough saved by next July." She is due for a raise then. Her net pay now is about $460 a month -- but the monthly rent for her apartment is $320.

Rosemarie says she gets raised eyebrows when people find out she is on welfare and lives in a rented house instead of an apartment. But she wants her children, ages 15, 9 and 2, to have a yard to play in.

"We're not supposed to livem on welfare," she exclaims, "we're supposed to exist.m " She resents welfare recipients being stereotyped as lazy moochers. "My kids don't wear Calvin Klein jeans, you know. We go to yard sales."

Rosemarie and Maxine are among some 10,000 to 12,000 recipients in Massachusetts who will be dropped from AFDC rolls.

Under the new federal regulations, welfare applicants with incomes more than 150 percent of the "standard of need" are ineligible for aid.A cap has also been placed on the amount recipients can deduct for work-related expenses, assets, and child-care costs when determining income.

Besides taking a second job or moving, there's a third option for working parents faced with the withdrawal of AFDC: they could quit their jobs and draw full welfare benefits. Many recipients and welfare rights groups say this is exactly what will happen.

Rosemarie, who works at the New Bedford Women's Center, says 99 percent of the women she talks to -- many on welfare -- say they wantm a job.

"I'd go bananas sitting at home," Rosemarie says. "I've been working since I was 12 years old." She said that she may look for part-time work during Christmas season and will abandon her studies toward a college degree in political science. For Maxine and her daughter, things may improve when the pay raise comes through next summer.

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