An Insult to the Poor

The most vulnerable and least protected workers of all might be those in "workfare"—programs in which welfare recipients must perform services in exchange for public assistance. Churches in New York City have adamantly opposed Mayor Rudy Giuliani's version of workfare, known as the Work Experience Program. Peter Laarman, senior minister at New York City's Judson Memorial Church, explains why many in the religious community feel that such programs are harmful to working people, unlikely to help welfare recipients move to paid employment, and ultimately demeaning for the participants themselves.

—The Editors

The great hope of welfare reform was that poor people would no longer be stigmatized for their "dependency" but would be enabled to take their place in society by supporting themselves through living-wage jobs. Because of New York's persistently weak job market for less-skilled workers, placing welfare recipients into living-wage jobs would have been extremely difficult here under the best of circumstances. A good-faith effort would have required significant expenditures of both imagination and public funds. Certainly all of the available federal funding coming into New York state would have been captured for its intended purpose of helping move recipients into jobs.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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