Friday, October 8, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

plan working,
state says

The rules were adopted to
motivate families to find jobs in
order to keep their benefits

By Gregg K. Kakesako


New rules designed to motivate welfare families to find work to keep their cash benefits appear to be working.

Susan Chandler, head of the Department of Human Services, said 999 welfare families that lost their welfare checks last month have had them restored after finding work, participating in a work training program or doing volunteer work.

A total of 1,355 households last month were trimmed from the rolls for failing to comply with the state's First-to-Work job training program.

Chandler said this latest development was "good news."

"We were hoping that this would happen," she said. "We believed the work requirement wasn't so strict that people would not comply."

However, Chandler believes it will be a continual educational process.

Each month a new pool of welfare families that has been receiving benefits for two years will face this deadline to find a job or begin job training, she said.

An additional 265 families were sanctioned this month and didn't get their checks.

Chandler added that welfare families have to understand that this is a federal requirement.

"After five years there will be no benefits forever," she said. "Some people don't believe this and think the state will pick it up, but it won't happen."

In the past, sanctions have been levied only on individual welfare recipients. However, in July the state revised its rules to include whole families.

The new policy applied to families that had been on welfare for more than two years and whose members had not found work or begun job training, Chandler said. Households that lose their cash benefits are still eligible for food stamp and medical benefits.

"I know it will be tough on families in the beginning who lose their benefits," Chandler said. "However, they know they can get them back by complying with the rules."

To keep their benefits those in the state's First-to-Work program need to be employed for at least 32 hours a month, of which 12 can be in the classroom.

Those waiting to get into the program and who are not employed or in job training need to meet a work activity of at least four hours a week, which may include volunteer work, schooling or job training.

The average welfare family of three receives $497 a month in benefits from the state.

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