The Texas Welfare System
Texas policy Report
November 4, 2018
The Texas Welfare System
Poverty is not an individual issue. I think it is societal issue. The definition of Welfare is a government support system for the citizens and residents of a society. The welfare system involves many programs to assist families such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Housing Assistance (section 8), Lifeline, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (ILHEAP) and if there are children in the home, that also includes Women, Infant, and Children services (WIC) School lunch programs, and Head start. One stipulation to reviving welfare benefits was that the person had to be elderly, disabled, or have a child living in the home with out a father. For many years this led to the fathers up and leaving their families so that their children could receive the benefits to survive. This qualification was later removed off the list of requirements, so the families could remain together. The majority of the people in poverty do work. Most people receiving food stamps are employed at minimum wage jobs but there is a difference between just working, having a job to get off of welfare and a job that can actually pay the bills. I think that there has to be some reform, job training or skill development to allow people on government assistance to acquire jobs where the pay is sufficiently, higher than minimum wage to allow them to rise above poverty. “States now discourage skills acquisition and push people towards finding a job as soon as possible” said LaDonna Pavetti with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
At the start of the great depression, in the 1930s, 18 million elderly, disabled and single mothers with children already lived by scraping by in the United States. By 1933, 13 million Americans has been let go at their place of employment. The governments, local and state, as well as private charities were overpowered by families desiring their basic needs as in food, shelter and clothing. “In 1935 welfare for poor children and other dependent persons became federal responsibility. Immediately after taking office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt Focused mainly on creating jobs for the masses of unemployed workers. He also backed the idea of federal aid for the poor children and dependents. He proposed and signed the federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA). FERA was only a temporary measure. The Roosevelt administration understood more fundamental reforms were needed to prevent a recurrence of what happened when the nations economy failed to provide the jobs and public relief necessary to meet the financial needs of unemployed workers and their families.” (Hanson)
“Among our objectives I place the securities of the men, women and children of the nation first. This security for the individual and for the family concerns itself primarily with three factors. People want decent homes to live in; They want to locate themselves where they can engage in productive work; and they want to safeguard against misfortunes which cannot be wholly eliminated in this man-made world of ours.” (President Roosevelt)
The governments, the local and the state, as well as the charities could no longer provide the handouts for all the families in this desperate situation. The great depression severely effected the poor children in America. Grace Abbott, head of the federal children’s bureau, reported that, “twenty percent of the nation’s school children showed evidence of poor nutrition, housing and medical care”. Schools were closed and even the teachers laid off because there just simply was not any money to pay them. An estimated two hundred thousand children were left to beg and wander the streets looking for whatever handouts they could receive because the conditions of the families were so grave. It became necessary for the federal government take action to help the families. I believe it is time once again for the federal government to interfere and help. People do not apply to receive help because they are reluctant to work or want to depend on hand outs. They ask for assistance because they can not obtain a job better than minimum wage and have enough money to pay rent, for a car, insurance and for food. The welfare system today is so backwards as in at certain income levels the benefit loss is greater than the additional money earned. The only jobs available to high school graduates or without any training do not allow much of a possibility for a better life. The job market is so tough out there than even a secretary is required to have an associate’s degree. “The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. To get back to recession employment levels, we must create 5.6 million new jobs. To kick-start job growth the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. We should also build proven models of subsidized employment to help the long term unemployed and other disadvantaged workers re-enter the labor force.” (Michalopoulos)
The study that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on poverty stated that if the government invested a million dollars on public works it could create 19,975 jobs. The most needed jobs require the least amount of training are in construction. Examples include building roads, roofing, or even a mason. The federal government can quickly train people, then fund construction projects already lined up. One way to help people off of welfare would require training while receiving benefits. The government could create a job guarantee program. Middle-skill jobs, which desire higher than a high school diploma but not a two- or four-year degree make up fifty-four percent of all jobs in the U.S labor market.
Mark Kessenich runs one of the most respected places in the country for helping people move up the career ladder called Wisconsin Regional Training Program/Big Step (WRTP), It is considered a sectoral employment program. It solicits feedback from employers about which good paying jobs they need to fill and prepares people for those jobs. WRTP works with people who have just a high school diploma, and trains them for positions that pay well. Their goal is to really build training programs that are intended to link family- sustaining employment and long term careers. In Milwaukee, the average wage for someone who wants to work but has no skills or higher education is $10 to $12 an hour, Kessenich said. The same person could go through WRTP/Big Step and make from $15.83 an hour to $20 an hour and up in fields like construction or manufacturing. (Semuels)
The minimum wage in Texas is still $7.25 per hour. In the 1960’s a full time worker earning minimum wage could successfully raise their family out of poverty at that wage. Had the minimum wage been subjected to inflation it should be around $10.86 per hour today. President Obama and several members of congress talked about raising the minimum wage, but it didn’t happen. Just raising it to $10.10 would bring more than four million people out of poverty.
The nation’s 3.7 million welfare families confront an urgent problem: they do not get enough money from welfare to pay their bills. Nor can most single mothers earn enough to cover their expenses. The only way most welfare recipients can keep their families together is to combine work and welfare. Yet if they report that they are working, the welfare department will soon reduce their checks by almost the full amount of their earnings, leaving them as desperate as before. The only way most recipients can make ends meet, therefore, is to supplement their welfare checks without telling the welfare department. (Jencks, C., ; Edin, K.)
The Federal Government is able to create enough Jobs to employ the undereducated, untrained people but if the minimum wage is not increased it is not going to allevite the issue. Training and skill development requirements while on government assistance and incorporating a job guarantee program can reverse the dependency of people on welfare. The government could impose a stipulation while training and starting the new jobs allowing working recipients to keep more of their benefits while completing the skill development courses.
“A number of programs that provide mandatory employment services were effective, but the most successful of these programs used a mix of services- including some education and training- and strongly emphasized the need to find work. The only program that both increased work and education made families financially better off. This plan allowed welfare recipients who went to work to keep more of their benefits than under the old welfare system (an approach now used in many states) This approach cost more than traditional welfare, but they also produced a range of positive effects for families and children” (Michalopoulos)
In closing, the options I have listed are just a couple of ideas that could be a promising solution to our state’s welfare dependency problem. A pathway out of poverty is what people need to be able to overcome being welfare dependent. Policymakers have a critical role in alleviating our dependency for welfare but to improve outcomes for families and children they will have to develop new ways of providing ongoing financial support to low-wage workers. I would say that without these new requirements to receive benefits that I have mentioned, the welfare system does not encourage recipients to change their lives in any manner. It is important that people break their dependency on welfare by training and by gaining skills for better employment opportunities and allowing for greater access to stable incomes. We must take care of our own American citizens currently on welfare benefits to help them get better paying jobs before helping others. Most people who went to work obtained low-wage or part-time jobs inevitably creating this vicious circle. People need special skills training and to work at jobs willing to pay higher than minimum wage to build a life and take care of their families. The welfare system does need to be reformed so that the welfare recipients can become self-sufficient.
Hansan, J.E. (2011). Origins of the state and federal public welfare programs (1932-1935). Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2018 from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/public-welfare/origins-of-the-state-federal-public-welfare-programs/Jencks, C., & Edin, K. (1990). The Real Welfare Problem. Retrieved October 29, 2018, from http://prospect.org/article/real-welfare-problem
Michalopoulos, C. (2001). How Welfare and Work Policies effect Employment and Income. A Synthesis of Research. Retrieved October 24, 2018 from https://www.mdrc.org/publication
Semuels, A. (2016, July 11). The Near Impossibility of Moving Up After Welfare. Retrieved October 29, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/life-after-welfare/490586/White House Report Details Benefits of Unemployment Insurance: December 5, 2013. (April 5, 1935). Historic Documents of 2013, 609-615. doi:10.4135/9781483347851.n66
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