Taking a page from President Clinton’s welfare reform plan, Gov. Pete Wilson joined a growing list of governors Friday who are proposing that able-bodied adult recipients be limited to two years of cash benefits.
In a renewed assault on welfare costs, the Republican governor presented the Legislature with spending proposals that, in addition to imposing time limits, deeply cut cash benefits, provide tough new tools for fraud detection and put aid restrictions on teen-age mothers. The reductions are aimed at Aid to Families With Dependent Children, by far the largest welfare program.
Wilson’s proposals would produce $460 million in savings in the $2.7-billion AFDC budget.
Many of the recommendations borrow heavily from the governor’s Proposition 165, a welfare plan that was soundly defeated by voters in 1992. But this year Administration officials said they hope to succeed in the Legislature because several of the governor’s proposals previously rejected by lawmakers now parallel programs being considered by Clinton’s welfare reform task force.
Two proposals that Wilson again included in his budget are getting attention in Washington: eliminating benefits for children born to mothers on welfare and for teen-agers who do not reside with their parents.
Wilson said he was recommending steep cuts in grants in an effort to control costs, encourage adult recipients to work and curtail growth of the welfare rolls. His cuts would reduce grants by 10% beginning July, 1994, and by an additional 15% in January, 1995, for all families that included an able-bodied adult. The cuts would be offset somewhat by an increased allotment of food stamps.
For a typical family of three--a mother and two children--the maximum monthly cash grant would eventually drop to $464, the least California has paid since 1981.
Wilson’s attempts to impose reductions of similar magnitude in previous budget years have been rejected by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, although lawmakers have approved smaller cuts in each of the last three years.
Under Wilson’s plan, beginning in 1996 all able-bodied adult recipients who had collected benefits for a combined 24 months would be cut from the rolls. Their children would still receive benefits and the entire family would qualify for medical aid and food stamps. State officials estimated that the time limits would apply to about 39% of the caseload, or 479,000 families. Similar limits are being considered in Vermont and Iowa and have been enacted in Wisconsin.
Social Services Department Director Eloise Anderson said the Republican governor’s proposals reflect a nationwide move to redesign AFDC to promote the work ethic. “We have to look at AFDC as a program to help you work. The philosophical basis for AFDC is no longer to help a mom stay home with her kids,” she said.
But advocates for the poor called the proposals punitive. “Perhaps the governor is trying to make the streets safer because he knows his welfare plan will mean more families will be living in them,” said Jamie Court, associate director of Harbor Interfaith Shelter.
Unlike the national welfare proposals, Court said, Wilson’s plan did not include some programs that would make the transition off welfare easier. He said that for many families to move off welfare, they would need job programs, subsidized child care and in some cases community service jobs.
Declining Welfare Grants
California’s maximum monthly cash grant for a family of three receiving assistance under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program continues to decline sharply.
YEAR GRANT % DECLINE Aug. 1989 $694 Sept. 1991 $663 4.4% Nov. 1992 $633 4.5% Dec. 1992 $624 1.3% Sept. 1993 $607 2.7% July 1994 $546 10% * Jan. 1995 $464 15% *
* Proposed in 1994-95 spending plan. The January cut would apply only to families in which there is an able-bodied adult.
Source: California Department of Social Services.