State gives welfare recipients chances to work before 0...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

September 12, 1998

State gives welfare recipients chances to work before 0) ending aid

We read with great concern the article "Welfare cuts loom for 9,000" (Aug. 28), stating that about 9,000 Baltimore residents may lose their Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) on Jan. 1, 1999, the federal welfare-to-work deadline.

Although the deadline refers to the provision in the federal welfare reform law of 1996 that prohibits an individual from receiving cash assistance for more than 24 months without engaging in a work activity, it is important to keep in mind the alternatives to paid employment that will allow benefits to continue.

These alternatives include subsidized employment in the public or private sector, grant diversion to pay a business for hiring a TCA recipient, on-the-job training, community service and training and education directly related to employment.

Maryland's welfare reform efforts have thus far been very successful. From January 1995, when the General Assembly and the Glendening administration first embarked on welfare reform, through July 1998, the welfare rolls have declined by 49 percent. We have made tremendous progress because, for the first time, we are treating people as individuals whose needs require individual solutions.

Giving people the opportunity to move from dependency to self-sufficiency while making them responsible if their actions contribute to failure has been the guiding principle of welfare reform in Maryland.

The General Assembly, recognizing the urgency posed by the federal time limit, has given the Maryland Department of Human Resources and local departments of social services the tools to help TCA recipients achieve self-sufficiency. The General Assembly:

* Passed landmark legislation in 1996, before enactment of the federal welfare reform law, to restructure Maryland's public assistance program and position the state for the federal changes.

* Created the Family Investment Program (FIP), which requires individuals to engage in a work activity in exchange for cash assistance and other support services.

* Gave flexibility to local departments of social services to implement the Family Investment Program at the local level.

* Specifies support services such as child care, which the state will provide to enable individuals to comply with work requirements.

* Requires screening for substance abuse and, if needed, substance abuse treatment. It has increased the treatment services funding by $4 million.

* Has established exemptions from the work requirements in hardship situations and for participation in substance abuse treatment.

* Allows local agencies to keep 45 percent of savings caused by reduction in caseload as an incentive to devise creative solutions to move people off the welfare rolls.

* Permits DHR to establish a state-only funded category of assistance for individuals unlikely to meet federal work requirments.

* Allows exemptions from state procurement laws for contracts expected to increase hiring of TCA recipients.

* Sets aside funds for demonstration projects and waivers promoting innovative approaches.

Despite our progress, we know that much work remains to be done. The individuals who have left the welfare rolls are, by and large, the best educated and the most job-ready. The individuals remaining on assistance may have greater problems, such as substance abuse problems, which create obstacles to employment. We must now concentrate FIP resources on these individuals and give them every opportunity to join the mainstream of society.

The Joint Committee on Welfare Reform intends to have a thorough discussion of state efforts to meet the 24-month time limit at its Sept. 22 meeting. We have every expectation that DHR and the Baltimore City Department of Social Services will assist families receiving TCA to meet their obligations under the law.

Families should be given every opportunity to comply with the law before facing termination of their benefits.

Martin G. Madden

Annapolis

Samuel I. Rosenberg

Annapolis

The writers are co-chairmen of the Maryland General Assembly's Joint Committee on Welfare Reform.

Cypriot missile column ignored Turkish terror

Robert Freedman's article "Monica Lewinsky and the Russian missiles in Cyprus" (Aug. 31) was highly misleading, both in its account of Turkey's 1974 invasion of Cyprus as well as in its review of the S-300 missile crisis.

Mr. Freedman states that "Turkish troops landed in northern Cyprus to protect the Turkish community of the island," adopting the Turkish government's pretext for its nightmarish 1974 invasion. He conceals the grim reality that Turkish troops killed thousands of Cypriots during the invasion, code-named "Operation Attila," and ethnically cleansed 200,000 of Cyprus' indigenous Greek inhabitants from 40 percent of the island. To this date, no other nation recognizes the puppet regime established by Turkey in northern Cyprus.

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