Bartlett urges charity over welfare Congressman speaks to aid recipients at center

February 22, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett faced an audience of young welfare recipients yesterday and called for an end to federal funding of projects that recipients say could lead to jobs and better lives for them and their children.

While he said he recognizes the need for services like those provided at the Carroll County Family Center, the Republican congressman said he would abolish the minimum wage and eliminate tax-supported welfare programs.

"The proper purveyors of welfare are churches, service organizations and individuals," he said on a visit to the Westminster center yesterday.

Mr. Bartlett, who faces two Republican challengers for his 6th District seat in the primary March 5, took time out from campaigning to read to toddlers, give their mothers civics lessons and encourage voters to participate in the election.

Sharon Green, a 32-year-old mother of four who is enrolled in a computer training program at the center, prefaced her questions with, "I am a registered voter."

Then she asked if charitable organizations could guarantee money for welfare recipients.

"I would be afraid to rely on the private sector for food stamps," she said. "Are they going to buy my groceries next week?"

Tax credits would spur donations and provide money to run programs, Mr. Bartlett said.

"We can do this ourselves," he said. "People are interested in helping other people. People care, but it needs to be one on one. With tax credits, you would be amazed at how quickly we find that base."

The center, sponsored by Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., offers educational and job training opportunities to about 40 young parents each month.

Federal money pays about $50,000 of the center's $300,000 annual budget, and government grants have funded a computer lab, where parents study business technology.

"They have programs in parenting skills, resume writing and employment skills," said Lynda Gainor, family center director. "It is not enough to get a [General Educational Development diploma] anymore. They have to find jobs. I hope there's jobs to find."

Mr. Bartlett congratulated the participants on their commitment to self-improvement.

"Getting an education is best for you and for society," he said. "Then, you will be producing dollars, not helped by [tax] dollars."

He stressed the value of working regardless of salary and voiced opposition to any increase in the minimum wage.

"Even if it's for $1 an hour, work is good," said Mr. Bartlett. "I would abolish the minimum wage altogether. A raise in the minimum would send jobs overseas or jobs would disappear."

With child-care costs averaging $75 per week, most of those in the audience said they cannot afford to work for the sake of working.

"I need to get a job that is good- paying and worth going out the door in the morning," said Ms. Green.

Her family lives precariously from one week to the next, she said. A few years ago, she gave college a try. Because she had obtained loans and grants to study, she lost her eligibility for food stamps and welfare. Mr. Bartlett called her experience typical but offered no solutions.

Although she did not agree with Mr. Bartlett, Ms. Green said she appreciated the opportunity to meet with him. "I finally got to tell somebody who could maybe make a difference," she said.

Pat Tyler, a teacher at the center, helped her students prepare questions for the congressman.

"They need to know where a candidate stands so they can make an informed choice," Ms. Tyler said.

The congressman also spoke to some of his youngest constituents. Ensconced in a rocking chair, he read "The Foot Book," a favorite with the dozen listeners, ages 3 months to 4 years.

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