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Welfare Reform, One Year Later

An improving economy eases the transition to work

By Karen Altman/CNN


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AllPolitics, Aug. 22) -- The government office in Annalpolis, Md., once called a "welfare center," is now a "job center," whose former "welfare clients" are now known as "customers."

But more than nomenclature has changed since President Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform bill into law a year ago today. States are forcing welfare recipients to get out and find jobs, and welfare rolls have dropped by historic numbers in almost every state.

The dire predictions made a year ago have not come true. A million children have not been thrown into poverty. Homeless shelters are not bursting at the seams.


Vesta Kimble, deputy director of the Anne Arundel County Job Center, says, "We've changed the culture of welfare. So we have mainstreamed individuals; they are simply unemployed. We don't have to stigmatize them."

The job center offers child-care services, classroom education, medical assistance and resume help.

Even clothes and shoes for job interviews are offered in place of straight cash assistance. And it's not just for those on welfare; it's open to anyone seeking a job.

All 50 states are in the process of transforming welfare in many different ways. Since the signing of the new law last August, almost 1.5 million Americans have left the rolls, bringing the nation's welfare population to a 27-year low.

Clinton and congressional Republicans are scrambling to take credit for "ending welfare as we know it." But, experts caution, tough challenges are yet to come.

Counselors say it's going to be much tougher to find jobs for those battling drug addiction. They also worry about keeping people in jobs and especially what happens to welfare reform if the economy stumbles.

"Most of the caseload reductions are not really due to the new rules," says Kimble. "They're due to the economy improving."

But for those on welfare and those struggling to avoid it, there's a determination to succeed.

"There's no way any of us are going to fail," says one Anne Arundel "customer." "Whether we came from welfare or whether we were laid off. Or what our situation is. We're all going to be a success."

In Other News:

Friday August 22, 1997

Judge Sets May '98 Trial Date In Jones v. Clinton
Feds Order New Teamsters Election
Analysis:The Web: A Playground For Politicos
Welfare Reform, One Year Later
E-mail: White House Looking Into Chung Visit
E-mail: Clinton Switches Sides In N.J. Affirmative Action Case

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