The possibility of a $10 to $12 cut in Brenda Groft's monthly aid check is about equal to a week's gas money for commuting to college from her Manchester home.
"To me, education is my way out of the (Aidto Families with Dependent Children) program," said Groft, 24. "It'slike (the cuts are) keeping me there."
The state Department of Human Resources last week said it had no choice but to cut welfare and AFDC checks starting April 1, unless the General Assembly provides more money. The department otherwise faces a deficit of up to $9 million for the year ending June 30 because more people are receiving assistance this year.
In Carroll, 545 families were receiving AFDC last November, an 18 percent increase sinceJuly 1989, say the latest available figures supplied by the County Department of Social Services. Statewide, the increase in cases was 12.8 percent for that same period.
Many more people are applying because of layoffs and business failures, although some may not qualify,said David Ensor, assistant DSS director. To qualify for welfare, a single adult with no children must have a medical condition that prevents the person from working, he said.
"To say the legislators caused the cuts is a blatantly fraudulent statement," said Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll.
He said the proposed cuts are a scare tactic and political move designed to get back at legislators for not accepting Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed tax increases.
Since DHR announced the cuts, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is proposing moving up the date of two new tax increases -- on cigarettes and on food sold in hospital and college cafeterias -- to cover the deficit.
Groft said she hasn't gotten around to calling or writing politicians about the proposed AFDC and welfare cuts, but pointedout she did not vote for Schaefer, whose spending habits she blames for state deficits.
"I do vote," she said. "That's where I exercise my political power."
A junior at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, Groft is working on a bachelor's degree in computer information systems management.
Because she has two children, she receives a $406 monthly check from AFDC, plus $218 in food stamps. She also receives a state scholarship to pay her $400 tuition each semester.
Although Ensor said an average $5 increase in food stamp money might offset the cuts for some people, Groft said it won't help her.
"I can't buy gas with food stamps," she said, adding her stamp ration is more than enough. "I'd rather have $40 less in food stamps and have them give me the cash."
Even the current $406 wouldn't even cover rent -- if she didn't live with her parents, who charge her a minimal amount, she said. Child care for her youngest son costs her$70 a month, with the rest covered by subsidies, she said.
When a$300 bill for textbooks overwhelmed her the beginning of this semester, she finally got some aid through the Carroll County Job Training Partnership Act Office.
JTPA provides education and job training to low-income people wanting to get off public assistance. Groft credits the program with her getting as far as she has in college.
If the cuts are implemented, "Somehow I will find the money," she said.
"I will not stop going to school for anything. It's just making it harder for me."
While a $10 to $12 cut in a working person's monthly income might have little effect, someone struggling on welfare might have to give up something as essential as phone service, said Diane Arbuthnot, Carroll JTPA director.
And not having a phone -- especially with Carroll's jobless rate having soared to 7.1 percent -- makes it harder to keep in touch with potential employers and agencies that provide services to help low-income people become independent, Arbuthnot said.
"They'll still have their shelter and they'll stillhave food on the table, but things considered necessary by you and Ibecome a luxury when you start reducing payments," she said.
"Thepeople who we see are really trying to move off welfare."