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Making Welfare More Fair to MA Families

April 2, 2008

Boston, MA - Welfare reform hasn't helped lower-income families in Massachusetts fight their way out of poverty. In fact, acording to a new report, poverty has increased since reforms were enacted more than a decade ago. Those reforms were meant to take funding spent on monthly cash payments to people in need and refocus it on programs that help people find jobs and earn more money.

The report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and Home for Little Wanderers says the state saved $1.3 billion by cutting those cash payments, but didn't refocus on supporting people looking for employment. Joan Wallace-Benjamin is the president of the Home for Little Wanderers, which co-sponsored the report.

"Everyone knows when you're trying to build a business, for example, you plow your initial savings back into the business to help it grow and become stronger. So those resources should have been put back into the investment in the people themselves."

Elizabeth Toulan, an attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services, says the problems the state will face with children growing up in lower-income homes will be much more expensive than funding new programs now would be.

"It'll cost us a lot more to take care of those children if things don't work out well, than it would to help the parents today."

The report recommends more funding for education and job training, expanding access to child care so parents can work, and raising the Earned Income Tax Credit, which gives tax money back to low-income workers who have jobs. Critics of these changes say the state is facing too many budget problems to be spending more money now.

Kevin Clay/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MA