Thursday, January 3, 2002

Welfare reform law
may need changing

The issue: The governor has
made it easier for part-time workers
to receive welfare benefits.

BILL Clinton campaigned for president in 1992 on the pledge to "end welfare as we know it." Welfare reform, much like Clinton proposed, worked during a booming economy, but a national recession and the strains of war may force Hawaii and other states to restore at least part of the safety net that the reform law had pulled away.

Governor Cayetano provided temporary relief last week by allowing welfare recipients to receive up to $200 a month from the state even if they work at jobs for at least 20 hours a week. As part of the work-incentive aspect of welfare reform, they had been eligible only if they worked at least 32 hours a week. The 32-hour requirement is scheduled to be restored on July 1.

The 1996 welfare-reform law allows families a maximum five years to receive welfare checks; some states adopted even shorter limits. During the economically robust years that followed, the number of welfare recipients nationally fell by more than half.

Meanwhile, welfare rolls in Hawaii, engulfed in an economic slump, rose to a high of 23,528 families in 1998. Before Sept. 11, Hawaii's welfare rolls had started to decline, reaching a low of 18,148 families last July, but the national recession already had begun to test the durability of welfare reform. The terrorist attack on America has made the test more severe, just as hundreds of Hawaii families reached their five-year cap for benefits.

Welfare reform was declared a success in Wisconsin, where it had been promoted by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, now secretary of health and human services. From 1997 to February of last year, that state's welfare rolls dropped by 85 percent, from 35,000 to 6,700 families. However, Wisconsin was among 13 states where welfare numbers rose from March to June, the latest quarter for which figures are available.

Although the five-year limit on benefits has been criticized, welfare reform has been successful. Kristine M. Foster, Hawaii's financial assistance administrator, says the law encouraging people to seek jobs was "really amazing to watch," although the lack of a safety net "frightens me."

Congress plans to consider reauthorization of the $16.5 billion reform law before it expires in September. The Bush administration is conducting "listening sessions" about how to improve the law. Its essence should remain intact, but parts may need adjusting to fit a sagging economy and the ongoing war against terrorism.

United Way gifts
attest to local support

The issue: Aloha United Way
attained funding goal as nation
responded to Sept. 11 needs.

THE nation's charitable organizations faced a daunting challenge after Sept. 11, which left many Americans drained after their outpouring of generosity to the first victims of the attack. Meanwhile, the ripple effect of terrorism spread throughout the country, and the second- and third-tier economic victims multiplied. Aloha United Way rose to the occasion, extending its fund-raising campaign by six weeks and surpassing its goal of $13.6 million, an increase from the amount collected in the 2000 campaign.

"We let people know what the situation was and let everyone know how people would be affected," says Irving Lauber, president of Aloha United Way. "People and organizations literally stepped up to the plate."

The problem was illustrated by an 8.2 percent decline since last summer in the national Philanthropic Giving Index, calculated from a survey of 145 fund-raisers and consultants conducted by the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University. The index "is definitely showing a slowing in giving that mirrors the slowing of the economy," says Eugene R. Tempel, the center's director. Most fund-raisers believe the more than $1.3 billion raised for the attack victims and recovery efforts diverted donations from other charities.

United Way did not compete against Sept. 11 relief efforts for donations. Instead, the organization's chapters across the country raised $340 million in its own Sept. 11 Fund. The money was distributed for assistance and services for victims and families, support for community organizations and rescue and recovery efforts, and in cash to those who were injured, lost loved ones and lost their homes or jobs as a direct result of the terrorist attacks.

The success of Aloha United Way is a strong indication that Hawaii's residents remain loyal to the more than 150 service agencies that receive its support. Corporations joined in the benevolence, with a $1 million donation by First Hawaiian Bank and its employees led by Walter Dods. The Hartley Foundation, established by Michael Hartley, founder and former chairman of Cheap Tickets Inc., also gave $1 million.

The silver lining may come later from young people who -- for the first time -- went to their wallets or became part of relief efforts in other ways after Sept. 11 because of their sympathy for those in need. We hope the experience will make contributing and volunteering a habit.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

Richard Halloran, editorial page director, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
Oahu Publications at 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.
Periodicals postage paid at Honolulu, Hawaii. Postmaster: Send address changes to
Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

E-mail to Editorial Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin