Tuesday, January 12, 1999

Welfare costs
fell in 1998, more
recipients at work

Rules to prod self-reliance
are proposed as Hawaii's progress
offers a shot at a federal bonus

By Mike Yuen


The state has made progress in getting welfare recipients into the work force, and is recommending rules to let recipients know they must become self-reliant, Human Services Director Susan Chandler said today.

Chandler told the House Finance Committee that she is proposing that entire households receiving federal or state assistance be penalized rather than just the "work-required" adult, as is now the case.

"In other words, the whole household could lose assistance benefits rather than just the adults," she said.

The point is to drive home to the adult welfare recipients that under the federal welfare reform act that President Clinton signed into law in 1996, they are limited to five years of assistance, and they had better get serious in finding employment, Chandler said.

There are now about 1,000 work-required adults on sanctions, Chandler said.

Departmental data show that employment levels, income, hours worked and household income have all increased for welfare recipients who are working, Chandler added.

Meanwhile, welfare payments have decreased and the average length of time on assistance has dropped from 30 months to 29 months.

Assistance per household to families receiving federal aid dropped from $584 per month in fiscal 1997 to $529 in fiscal 1998, Chandler said.

The state-funded program, which unlike the federal program allows aid to immigrants, has seen the monthly welfare payments drop from $636 in fiscal 1997 to $604 in fiscal 1998, she added.

Moreover, the number of employed welfare recipients increased from 6,550 with a total gross income of $31.9 million in fiscal 1997 to 7,596 with a total gross income of $51 million in fiscal 1998, Chandler said.

As a result, welfare costs fell $19.7 million in fiscal 1998, Chandler said.

Because 36.25 percent of Hawaii's work-required welfare recipients had jobs or were participating in job-training activities during the last fiscal year, the state is in line for a federal performance bonus given to the five states with the highest percentage of employed recipients.

Under the now-dismantled Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, only 13 percent of isle welfare recipients were working, Chandler said.

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