Welfare payments tied to job hunt New county policy on AFDC grants takes effect Friday

February 28, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Anticipating statewide welfare reform, the Carroll County Department of Social Services outlined a new policy yesterday that will require most welfare applicants to look for work or face penalties.

Beginning Friday, people seeking cash grants through Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) must apply for five jobs a week while waiting for their applications to be processed, which typically takes a month.

Applicants refusing to participate in a job search could lose part of their monthly AFDC money. Excluded from the new regulations are women with children under age 3 and AFDC applicants who are unable to look for a job because of health problems.

"This is to try to help them get a job upfront to negate the need for AFDC," said M. Alexander Jones, director of the Social Services Department.

The General Assembly is considering a welfare reform bill that would emphasize putting clients to work and providing them with regular cash payments only as a last resort.

Like Carroll, social services offices in some other jurisdictions have adopted policy changes geared toward moving welfare recipients to work.

The new Carroll policy increases the number of AFDC applicants and recipients who will be required to look for work. Under current regulations, only recipients in Project Independence, a state welfare-to-work program, must look for jobs or enroll in job training.

The new policy in Carroll will force about 80 additional people each month into a local job market that doesn't offer many employment possibilities.

Local job listings distributed every two weeks by the county unemployment office include 50 to 60 available positions. Mr. Jones estimates that welfare recipients might qualify for about 20 of those jobs.

"We don't have a whole lot of jobs in Carroll County," Mr. Jones said. "We'll have to rely on jobs in other counties."

Details on policy

Under the new policy, those seeking welfare will be informed of the new job-search requirements as part of their AFDC application process before receiving approval for cash payments.

At the same time, a job-search coordinator will meet with each applicant to discuss employment possibilities.

The applicant will be given five forms to record the job search for the week and five stamped envelopes in which to mail the information back to the job-search coordinator.

The applicant will continue to make five "job contacts" each week for about four weeks while waiting for the AFDC application to be processed.

Clients who don't find work during that period will be referred to ++ the county's Job Training Partnership office for continued help in the job search.

Avoid entering system

By requiring welfare applicants to look for work before they begin receiving cash grants, social services officials hope that some can avoid entering the welfare system.

"The emphasis is, you're going to need to do this and you're going to need to do it right away," said Linda Long, income maintenance trainer with Carroll's social services office.

Clients will be expected to try to solve child-care or transportation problems, although Ms. Long said some money might be made available to address those issues.

"A lot of this is going to be asking the clients to help themselves," she said.

Clients who find jobs but still don't make enough to support themselves might be eligible to receive reduced AFDC grants, child-care subsidies and food stamps.

"We want to help them get over that initial hump of going to work and encourage them to keep working," Ms. Long said.

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