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Study on County Welfare Costs

The Rose Institute study (June 3) alleging that the cost to deliver one dollar of welfare benefits increased from 19 cents in 1977-78 to 34 cents in 1995-96 is fatally flawed and a grave disservice at a time when public debate is vitally needed to reform our welfare system.

The authors have taken the most simplistic approach possible by comparing county budget documents for 1977-78 to those for 1995-96 and in doing so have contorted the findings. For example, in the intervening 18 years, the county has changed its accounting practices. A valid comparison can only be made if the data are adjusted.

In addition, the county does not budget the value of food stamp and Medi-Cal benefits but does budget the costs to administer these programs. This skews the cost side of the analysis because the number of persons receiving Medi-Cal has increased by more than 216%, while the number of persons aided on all other programs combined has only increased by about 54%.

Finally, the Department of Community and Senior Services did not in 1977-78 and does not today administer “welfare” programs. Its costs should not be considered at all in this discussion.

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It is unfortunate that the authors of the Rose Institute study chose not to consult with welfare administrators. Had they done so, the needed adjustments could have been made and meaningful information shared. The fact is that the cost of delivering $1 of welfare has decreased from 14 cents in 1977-78 to 13 cents in 1995-96. Even greater efficiencies have been achieved in the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program. In 1977-78, it cost 19 cents for each AFDC dollar distributed; by 1995-96, this cost had been slashed to eight cents.

The authors have published raw statistics which, while technically correct, contribute nothing to understanding or improving our public institutions.

EDDY S. TANAKA, Director

Dept. of Public Social Services

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Los Angeles County


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