While it may be too soon to tell if the 1996 Welfare Reform Act has succeeded in its goal of moving people from welfare to work, there are early signs from the streets that the attempts to make this transition hasn't been easy for many people.
The International Union of Gospel Missions, which provides emergency food and shelter and other assistance to homeless people and others in need, found that 20 percent of those checking into their missions in 1997 became homeless because of the loss of government benefits in the past year. The mission's "Snap Shot Survey" of more than 15,000 homeless people also showed that the homeless population in 1997 consisted of more older people than in previous years.
"Even though we have not yet seen the total impact of welfare reform, people are already falling through the cracks," said Rev. Stephen Burger, executive director of IUGM.
In another study, the Preamble Center for Public Policy found that "the economy is projected to create only about half as many net new low-skill jobs as there are welfare recipients targeted to enter the labor market" in the coming year. Welfare Reform: The Jobs Aren't There explains that "if normal growth in the labor force is factored in, the ratio of job seekers to jobs nationally is nearly three to one."
The report was released by the organization Jobs With Justice for the National Day of Action for Welfare/Workfare Justice on December 10, 1997. The event was held to raise public awareness about the effects of welfare reform and to push for the creation of more jobs in the public and private sectors. For a copy of Welfare Reform: The Jobs Aren't There, contact Jobs With Justice at (202) 434-1106.
Promise Keepers Navigate Local Politics