New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 13, 1995, New Braunfels, Texas
SAR Friday, Jan, 13,1994 ■ Herald-ZeitungState Comptroller says it’s time to reform welfare in Texas
From staff reports
AUSTIN - “It’s time to reform welfare’s checkbook and welfare’s rule book in Texas,’’ State Comptroller John Sharp said today, as he released a package of wide-ranging recommendations for overhauling the Texas welfare system through a series of innovative programs and pilot projects designed to help needy Texans become self-sufficient and reduce the cost of providing those services.
"More often than not, welfare is neither ‘well’ nor ‘fair,’’’ Sharp said at a briefing for State Capitol reporters.
The report was requested by Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock last April and is entitled “A Partnership for Independence.”
It contains nearly IOO detailed proposals, including a 24-month welfare limit, improved access to job training and child care, a requirement that mothers on public assistance who choose to have additional children identify the father if they intend to collect welfare for that child, and implementation of automated fingerprint imaging similar to that soon to be required to get a Texas driver’s license.
Other proposals contained in the report include cutting rules and regulations that discourage marriage for low-income couples; strengthening child support enforcement efforts to help families free themselves from public assistance; and establishing a "Work First” program to move AFDC recipients into paying jobs.
“The difference between this reform package and any others you may have heard about,” Sharp noted, "is that this is the only one put down on paper, this one is complete, and this one more than pays for itself. It’s fine to talk about the need for reform, but unless you can find the money to pay for it, it’s not reform, it’s just talk.
"In the end, true welfare reform must address the rules that everyone—recipients and the state—is expected to live by. That’s why our recommendations will streamline the welfare bureaucracy and save Texans more than $100 million—even after paying for the reforms we propose.
“But our recommendations will do something else, too. If enacted, they will require welfare recipients to live by the same rules everyone else does, to make smart decisions about their daily lives—and. like the rest of us, to live with the consequences of those
Toward that end, Sharp said, the report contains a "Bill of Responsibilities," in which the responsibility of state government to provide transitional help is matched by certain responsibilities among those who benefit from such help.
"Every recommendation in this report is framed by an implicit agreement between those who receive public assistance and those who pay for it,” Sharp said.
"Our ‘Bill of Responsibilities’ clearly defines what’s expected from everyone involved, including a fair, efficient welfare system from the state and a commitment by recipients to take action so that welfare assistance will be transitional, and not a way of life.
“Our proposed reforms will not only help disadvantaged Texans fully participate in the state’s economic growth, but the recommendations could also save taxpayers nearly $104 million during the next two-year budget cycle, and as much as $407 million by the turn of the century.
"This report also tries to define the reality of welfare in Texas. For example, in 1995, the typical Texas welfare family, which consists of a single parent with two children, will receive benefits worth $778 per month: $188 in family cash assistance, $286 in Medicaid services and $304 in food stamps.”
The report describes the average welfare recipient as a single 30-year-old female with less than 12 years of education, no current employment and no additional sources of income. The typical welfare family includes two children, one of w hom is of preschool age.
About 60 percent of Texas welfare recipients have been receiving benefits for one year or less dunng their latest “spell” on assistance. When the full length of their assistance is tallied, about half of Texas Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) caretakers receive benefits for two years or less.
The report also notes that poverty is more pervasive in Texas than the U.S. as a whole.
In 1993, 3.2 million Texans—more than 17 percent of the state’s population—lived below the poverty line of $ 11,521 (for a family of three).
Yet, in Texas, about half of all poor families have two parents present. By
A Partnership for Independence *
Public Assistance Reform Options
Over the past decade, the growth in Texans receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children has outstripped both the state's and the nation s general population growth, as well as the number of people on AFDC nationwide.
AFDC Recipients vs. Population Growth
Texas AFDC recipients
— Texas population '••• U.S. AFDC recipients
— U.S. population
84 85 86 87 ’88 89 90 91 *92 93
SOURCES A Partnership tor independence Oy John Sharp,
T«xa* Comptroller ol Putt* Accounts, U S Bureau o* the Census;
Tanas Department ol Human Services and u S Department of Health and Human Services
A l/\lv”t’NKIv\Sllir for lNDKl’KNDKNCK
Public Assistance Reform Options
Poverty is more pervasive In Texas than in the _
U.S., while the state’s public assistance programs offer some of the lowest benefits in the nation.
Value of Monthly Benefits for a Typical Texas AFDC Family*
Federal poverty line—$1,027
4 Food Stamps
* A single female caregiver and two children.
SOURCES: A Partnership tor Independence by John Sharp,
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Department of Human Services and Legislative Budget Board.
ties on welfare leave the rolls behind for good; and Cutting the bureaucracy while reducing fraud and duplication of benefits, improving service and saving money.
"As always, we acknowledge that government can’t solve every prob
lem, and that even the most successful public programs can’t substitute for the nurturing influence of a stable family," Sharp said.
"But these proposals will save money, and make Texas a national leader on welfare reform"
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federal and state requirement, the bulk of these families are excluded from receiving AFDC.
In contrast, only about 35 percent of the poor families in the U.S. are headed by both parents.
In addition, about two-thirds of the adults in Texas’ poor families are employed, compared to fewer than half those in poor families nationwide.
In addition, the report recommends granting communities more local control over job training and work force development programs; increasing public awareness of the federal Lamed Income Tax Credit for working families; providing one-time emergency cash payments to qualified recipients to reduce ongoing dependence on AFDC;
and transferring Texans with disabilities who now receive AFDC to federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability' Insurance (SSDI) programs, both of which pay considerably more than AFDC and provide job programs and other support serv ices unavailable to AFDC recipients.
Sharp said that each proposal in "A Partnership for Independence" is guided by at least one of five goals:
Enforcing personal responsibility and preserving the family;
Diverting Texans from welfare;
Keeping Texans from returning to public assistance once they’ve achieved independence;
Helping those Texans with disabih-
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