Plan Boosts Earnings of Welfare Recipients

FLORIDA study of a welfare-to-work program released this week by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) of New York indicates some modest success in increasing the job earnings of welfare recipients and decreasing their welfare payments.

Under the federal Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training Program (JOBS), the experiences of more than 18,000 single parents, mostly mothers with school-age children, were studied.

Participants in the Florida program, Project Independence, were divided into two groups. The first group received specific training and education. The second group was not required to participate.

At the end of a year, the first group earned an average of $157 a year more than the second group and saw a corresponding reduction in welfare payments.

The author of the Florida study, James Kemple, indicated that some people in the study benefited a lot more in earnings. Others experienced no change at all.

A study of a somewhat similar program in California revealed the same level of success.

More than 81 percent of the participants in the Florida program knew that their involvement in the program was mandatory and were aware that their Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) support could be reduced if they didn't participate. More than half said it was ``fair'' to reduce payments if people didn't participate. Only about 10 percent had payments reduced.

However modest, the findings indicate that the concentrated employment and educational efforts of the state in helping disadvantaged people has some impact.

MDRC will do a second study assessing the long-term effects of the program, including a review of the types of jobs obtained, and, most importantly, a look at whether the welfare savings and other benefits outweighed the program's costs.

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