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County Begins Job Training in Bid to Cut Welfare Rolls

Times Staff Writer

Orange County Social Services Agency officials announced Monday that they have begun a state-mandated job-training program designed to cut the rolls of one of the county’s largest welfare programs by a third.

The program, called Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN), is for recipients of county Aid to Families With Dependent Children. All new AFDC applicants ages 16-65 who are not disabled and do not have children younger than 6 will be required to participate.

If current numbers remained constant, that would mean about 5,400 participants in the GAIN program.

The difference between GAIN and a long list of other so-called workfare programs, county welfare officials said, is that for the first time enough money has been made available to provide books and tools for vocational classes, school transportation and child care.

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The program began earlier this month under state legislation requiring counties to have GAIN programs in place by Sept. 1. The county’s share of a $378-million statewide budget for these programs for fiscal 1988-89 is $5.7 million.

Under the county’s GAIN program, participants will be aiming for jobs to pay them enough so that welfare does not look more attractive than working--$7 an hour or more.

“In the past, many programs were just an empty promise,” said Robert Griffith, deputy director of the county Social Services Agency. “They just didn’t have the resources behind them.”

Under the GAIN program, he said, “we’re looking at the need to find a job that’s adequate to support a family on.”

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A typical county family receiving AFDC benefits consists of a single mother and two children, getting $663 a month.

A particular aim of the county program, Griffith said, will be to identify and increase the number of slots in child care facilities, now in short supply.

Finding decent jobs for program participants should not be difficult, Griffith said, because jobs of all kinds are available in the county, which has an unemployment rate of about 3%.

Once a person obtains a job under the GAIN program, free day care will be provided for a three-month adjustment period.

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About 30 job categories, ranging from truck driver to medical technician, have been identified as likely candidates for GAIN program participants, Griffith said.

Dianne Edwards, director of adult employment programs for the Social Services Agency, said the county GAIN program will, for its first few months, be restricted to the agency’s Santa Ana office. It will be expanded to the agency’s other county offices in the next 18 months.

All new applicants for AFDC applications who are eligible for the GAIN program will be required to participate in it, Edwards said.

Those already receiving grants who are eligible for GAIN will be required to enroll during their next annual review, she said.

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In some cases, Edwards said, clients will have to undergo extensive remedial training in basic language and math skills before they can complete up to two years of vocational training.

Others, she said, may be able to go directly into the job market.

Effectiveness Evaluation

The program’s effectiveness in keeping down the number of people on welfare rolls throughout the state will be evaluated over a four-year period by a firm hired by the state, said Larry M. Leaman, Social Services Agency director.

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The evaluation firm, to reach meaningful comparisons, will create control groups of welfare clients who will not be allowed to participate in the program, he said.


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