First, a disclaimer:I provide GAIN services to Welfare (CalWORKS) participants. What I am about to tell you is not the opinion of my office, employer, or anyone connected, contracted with or has ever heard of the companies I work for and through. Also, although I am a GAIN services worker, I was also a Welfare Mom and GAIN participant myself.
I look at CalWORKS/Welfare/TANF, GAIN holistically. I know the urgent need to house and feed a child and self. I am also fairly familiar with the services available to the poor who are raising children.
If you want to SAVE the aid programs for the needy and not just cut them right out of the budget, you need to find ways to make the program less expensive. Also, the program needs to be more effective. This is what I would do…
- Public Transportation for everyone. Give every person who is in an eligible aid receiving household a bus pass. That means $75 per adult, $36 per adult student, and $24 a month per child per month. WHAT?! I sound like a politician when I tell you that you can save money by giving it away? Keep reading.
- Currently a person who has to travel more than 2 hours round a trip from their home to school, work, community service, therapy, etc is eligible for MILAGE PAYMENTS to come and go to those activities. No one likes to feel like they live on the bus (except the driver, perhaps), however the recipient of the funds has chosen the location of their activity. They can choose a location closer to home or spend more time on public transportation. This would also include excluding parking fees and car repairs from public assistance funding.
- FROM THE RECIPIENT Point of View: Buses smell bad, they don’t always come on time and the bus schedule may not flow seamlessly into my own. However, I spend less in gasoline and car repairs. Public transportation is available almost everywhere. Currently my children receive a bus pass from the age of 5 until 13. However 13 is the age where my student may need to ride the bus alone and is more likely to drop out f it is hard to get to school. School districts are closing their bus lines, and public transportation is all that remains for many students.
- FROM THE TAXPAYER Point of View: Sometimes we pay over $300.00 a month in mileage to a part-time employee who works 2 days a week and earns about $200.00 a month. The client has more money in transportation payments than in income. (this is an actual case, by the way) There is no way to ensure they are actually driving themselves and not purchasing a $75 bus pass and pocketing the change. Participants Are free to use their cash aid on gas for trips to the store and medical appointments, or they may use their passes to take public transportation every where they go and reduce traffic congestion and smog. Students with bus passes do not have the excuse to drop out of school because it was too far to walk or their parents could not afford to drive them to campus.
- DRUG TESTING for all recipients of Public Funds. Don’t think I am picking on the poor, I want Substance Abuse screenings for Social Security Recipients, Welfare parents, people on General Relief, and everyone receiving services at an agency that is funded by the government. Unlike Florida, I would not charge the applicant for the testing.
- Client Point of View: I already have to disclose all my financial information to the government and prove that I am alive and in need, being subjected to a drug test feels like you suspect me of substance abuse.
- Taxpayer Point of View: I want to help people who need funds to house themselves and feed their families. I don’t want my tax dollars used to subsidize the drug trade in America. I also want to encourage the custodians of minor children to be responsible and not smoke the kid’s lunch money or inject the rent into a major vein. I SEE THIS HAPPEN often.
- OVERSIGHT LAWS Make laws on how and where funds are used. Require public assistance funds be spent on specific items and in the county that funds are issued. Much like the WIC program, where only specific stores and items may be purchased with the funds – specify that the only items public low-income assistance funds be used for are:
- personal hygiene items (tooth-brush, tooth paste, sanitary needs, soap, deodorant, razor) no hair dye
- clothing (socks, underwear, shoes, slacks, tops, dresses, etc) – no formal wear or jewelry
- medical needs: medical co pay, over the counter pain relievers, band aids
- gasoline and car / bike repair
- school supplies
- Utility bills: water, gas, phone, trash
Not dog food, pet care, ear piercings, body art, casino cash machines, on cruise ships, house ware departments. I would also like all cash aid/food stamp households to have a class in coupon use and money management.
- Client Point of View: I know where I need the money – why should anyone tell me that I need to buy generic shampoo and not be able to purchase earrings. I feel punished by having limits on where I can shop. Why do I have to fit into a mold?
- Taxpayer point of view: Everyone deserves neighbors who are clean, hygienic, and housed. This is what the Social service format was designed to do – to provide the poor with the means to live in dignity and have basic needs met. Cigarettes. Drugs, acrylic nails and other luxury items are not necessary to survive. Many non-aid receiving people go without movie tickets and trips to Disneyland because it does not fit into our budgets – there is no reason we should subsidize those activities for the poor with our tax funds.
- Remove Domestic Violence, U-Visa and VAWA recipients from the Welfare to Work Programs. This people have significant barriers that they must overcome before graduating into the Welfare to Work program.
- Client Point of View: I don’t want to have to do 32/35 hours of GAIN activities when the person sitting next to me does not. I will learn that I can claim DV and avoid the timelines and still receive all the benefits of the program. – on the other hand, if I am DV, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) or U-Visa – I am simply not prepared to have to do 32/25 hours of activity when I am not stable enough or safe enough to hold down a job. I feel like I may lose my opportunity to participate when I am ready
- Taxpayer Point of View: Welfare to Work should be just that – welfare to WORK. Other people who need special and intense help should be placed in services molded to their needs and not forced to participate in a program that gives extreme pressure. IF the Government is not ready or able to provide the services needed, contract out to community based services. Provide them with Cash aid, but do not require the use of clothing, transportation and child care resources that were funded for WORKERS and Soon-to-be-workers.