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Welfare Reforms Just Four Days Away

September 27, 1996
By: Tracy Sadeghian
State Capital Bureau

Just four days from now Missourians on welfare will face what is being called the most drastic overhaul of the welfare system in almost 60 years.

The federal welfare reform law goes into effect October first. And some of Missouri's 80,000 households on welfare will feel the cuts immediately.

But as Tracy Sadeghian reports, many recipients and government officials are still in the dark about the full impact of the law.

Story:Sadeghian
RunTime:
OutCue: SOC

President Clinton's signing of the welfare bill last month has left some states scrambling to prepare for the impending cuts.

Earlier this month..Gary Stangler..head of Missouri's Department of Social Services.. held a statewide teleconference with department employees to discuss the changes.

Actuality:Stangler
RunTime: 10 sec
OutCue: "federal government"
Contents: "The law is so new we haven't had enough time to plan for it. We are still debating over its interpretation with the federal government."

Instead of the current Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the welfare reform bill will replace that funding program with a single welfare block grant. In a later interview, Stangler said Missouri is prepared for the changes...

Actuality:Stangler
RunTime:
OutCue: "..this new law."
Contents: "We are a relatively low spending state on welfare. And that amount of money has been declining when we get the block grant October first. We actually get more in the block grant than we are spending today because we actually have been so successful in reducing our case loads. Missouri's in a very good position to accommodate the new law."

But some Missourians will be hit with cuts immediately. Starting Tuesday, welfare recipients must get back to work within two years or they'll be dropped from the welfare rolls.

They will be limited to a lifetime total of five years on welfare.

In previous years, households received a yearly increase in food stamps. But as of Tuesday, the new increase will be smaller than expected.

For example, a household of three getting the maximum amount of food stamps sees 313-dollars per month. Before the cuts were announced, people were expecting another 11-dollars a month. The reforms have cut that increase to just two-dollars more.

The federal law also makes it tougher for some adults to qualify for food stamps. Able-bodied single adults between the ages of 18 and 50 are limited to a total of three months of food stamps within three years unless they work at least 20 hours a week.

In addition, 12,000 single-parent households may lose 50- dollars a month.

That's because the federal government is no longer paying the first 50-dollars collected in child support currently given to families along with their welfare benefits.

Stangler says his department has the funds to cover the rest of this calendar year but after that it will be up to the legislature to decide whether to continue funding the program.

The law also slashes the Social Services Block grant by 15% per year. And that translates into big cuts for programs providing home services for the elderly, children and foster care and departments investigating child and elder abuse.

Stangler says the Social Services Department will be alerting its clients about these changes soon. From Jefferson City, I'm Tracy Sadeghian.