Md. could lose $1 billion under GOP welfare bill

March 23, 1995|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Maryland would lose nearly $1 billion in federal money over the next five years under the sweeping welfare bill that Republicans hope to push through the House this week, according to a Clinton administration analysis of the legislation.

The figures surfaced as tempers flared on the House floor yesterday, soon after lawmakers began to consider amendments to the 396-page bill.

A second analysis that focused on the immediate impact of some of the cuts for states, offered by a key Democrat in the welfare debate, Rep. Harold E. Ford of Tennessee, showed that Maryland's allocation for Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) would be $17 million less than a state analyst says it needs "just to hold the line" next year.

Maryland officials say they have not yet worked out their own estimate of the measure's impact on the state because many of the details needed for accurate analysis are not yet available. Meanwhile, the analyses from the administration and congressional Democrats, both of which oppose major features of the legislation, began appearing this week on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Ford asserted that Republicans were looking out for their own states in their latest change to the formula for distributing money to the states for AFDC, the nation's main welfare program, and several related programs. Maryland now pays 80,000 families AFDC grants averaging $319 a month. The cost is split 50-50 with the federal government.

Republicans say they are not cutting spending, but rather restraining growth in expenditures.

To officials who administer state programs, the difference is academic.

"We would be under major, major constraints" if the state's allocation for AFDC were $17 million less than officials believe is needed, said Gerald Martin, an analyst for the Maryland Department of Human Services.

He said the state might have to cut grants and reduce efforts to find jobs for welfare recipients.

The Republicans' bill, part of their campaign manifesto, the "Contract with America," would end the six-decade-old concept of entitlement to AFDC, which allows anyone to collect benefits who qualifies, no matter what it costs the government.

The Republican bill would consolidate spending on AFDC and several other programs into a "block grant" to the states and give them wide latitude in spending the money. The bill provides $15.4 billion annually for the states for the next five years, an amount that critics say is insufficient.

It would also limit recipients to collecting welfare benefits for five years; prohibit payment to unwed teen mothers and their children until the mothers reach age 18; impose new work requirements on recipients; bar most federal welfare payments to legal aliens; and remove nearly 900,000 people from the rolls of the $25 billion Supplemental Security Income program for the poor, aged and disabled.

Critics say they hope the bill's impact will be lessened by the Senate.

"It looks to me that the Senate is the place where we are going to find some rationality," Mr. Martin said.

One-third of Maryland's five-year loss of nearly $1 billion would come in the food stamp program, which now provides $31 million a month to 390,000 state residents.

Nationwide, food stamp spending would be cut $20 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Marylanders would lose another $137 million because of stiffened eligibility requirements for SSI, a federal program that has seen its costs double in the last five years.

The state also would lose $50 million in funding for child protection, $43 million for child care and $118 million for nutrition programs. Immigrants in the state would lose $173 million in federal funds.

The sweeping legislation would transform many of the nation's anti-poverty programs and reduce spending on them by nearly $70 billion over the next five years.

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