CalWORKs' Deadly Blow to the Black Community
The budgetary axe always falls on those least able to resist--African Americans and the poor--whenever there is a fiscal crisis.
Yussuf J. SimmondsSentinel Managing Editor
A close look at the CalWORKs Options for Increasing Work Participation for providing meaningful incentives, through training and eventual employment, to those on welfare with young children seems like a masterful plan. Known loosely as the welfare-to-work program, it has a multitude of purposes. Not only does it give the participants the means and opportunity to get off the government dole--as the name suggests--it instills self esteem, a sense of being and results in productive human beings.
Using his budgetary axe, the Governor has proposed a devastating blow to the poor; he is about to cut the welfare-to-work program, which gives many low-income and single Black mothers a foothold in life. A few years ago, the African American Unity Center (AAUC) championed a welfare-to-work program, at its headquarters on 53rd and Vermont, and it was so successful that droves of elected officials and representatives from various governmental agencies used to flock to the graduation program which included computer training, hospitality worker training and high school equivalency. Because of the 1993 earthquake, the program has stopped.
"The Governor's proposed elimination of the CalWORKs Program, one of the most important and successful programs in the State, would have a terrible impact on the approximately 50,000 families with 105,000 children that rely on this program in the Second District," according to its Supervisor, Mark Ridley Thomas. "The CalWORKs Program provides temporary financial assistance, employment-focused services, and access to quality and affordable child care services that allow families to successfully transition from a situation of dependency on the County's safety net to one of self-sufficiency, and do so with honor and integrity," he concluded.
In an editorial response to the GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE WELFARE-TO-WORK PROGRAMS, Charisse Bremond Weaver, President and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade and AAUC lambasted the Governor's proposal. Here, in part, is what she said, "The truth about welfare-to-work, AmeriCorps, and similar programs is that they link hope with opportunity in order to effectuate success. On the surface, eliminating these programs seems to cut out superfluous and unnecessary services. In reality, it will unconsciously strip away one of the few beacons of hope that are left for individuals in highly marginalized and severely underserved communities."
But in order to really understand the value of the welfare-to-work program, it is necessary to hear from some of its participants.
LARRENA JACKSON, she is a mother of one child and she said, "It's been a good experience, I've learned a lot of things about working with kids. I started last month, and I stayed there two weeks, and they sent me to the 'WorkSource' to help me look for a job, and I found a job at the Brotherhood Crusade. The program has helped me find a job, helped me with school and gave me experience for when I leave here; I'll have experience working with kids."
ANDREA GIRON: she is a mother of one child and she said, "I've been on the program for two months; I started at the 'WorkSource' on Vermont and they sent me to work right away at the Brotherhood and I've been here for about two months. It has been a good experience because without this, I wouldn't have a job and be able to pay my bills or anything. It has benefited me greatly and I have recommended it to some of my friends."
ANNA MARIA BANKS: she is also a mother of one child and said, "I have been in the program since November last year and it's done quite a bit for me. I didn't realize some of the things that I was good at like switchboard and receptionist, and I found out something that I like, being in the work force. I don't receive county aid anymore. And all the money that I get, it's been quite some help because if I didn't, I don't know what I'd do right now. Actually it uplifts me and my self- esteem. It gives me a reason to get up (in the morning)."
With these results, it goes without saying that cutting off or de-funding the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program would be a great disservice to the community. It not only is a great program, it's also a great human resource.