U.S. Approves Private Pact for Workfare

In one of its final acts, the Reagan Administration approved a controversial Los Angeles County contract with a private firm to run California’s largest work-for-welfare program, state officials said Friday.

Although it had been anticipated, the federal action drew immediate criticism from Sen. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles), an author of the state Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) work plan for welfare parents. He called the federal approval a “dangerous” precedent for welfare programs throughout the country.

Federal authorization was one of the final obstacles overcome by the county. A court case filed by county workers is scheduled for a hearing next week to stop the private Virginia-based firm, Maximus Inc., from administering the education and job-training program for up to 100,000 welfare recipients.

Under state and federal laws, welfare parents are required to participate in GAIN or risk losing their welfare checks. Los Angeles is the only county in the nation to turn workfare over to a private company.


Greene, whose South-Central Los Angeles district includes a high percentage of welfare families, was a leading opponent of putting the future of such parents and children in the hands of a profit-making venture.

Wayne A. Stanton, administrator of the federal Family Support Administration, sent a letter of authorization Wednesday to state Department of Social Services Director Linda S. McMahon giving the go-ahead for the program.

Approval was based on the condition of the state “eliminating any discretion on the part of the Maximus staff” to make decisions affecting the eligibility or payment of benefits to welfare parents. Friday was an unofficial holiday in Washington, and no one was in Stanton’s office to clarify his position.