Study cites welfare reform success

Bay City News
Tuesday November 14, 2000

BERKELEY — A report by the University of California at Berkeley suggests welfare reform legislation increasing local control has inspired some flexible and innovative county-level programs in the Bay area. 

Professor Michael Austin from the School of Social Welfare said today that the results are “very positive.” 

“We thought welfare reform might create more problems than it solved, but we have been pleasantly surprised in California,'' he said. 

The study, which provides the first insight into how social services agencies are coping with the 1996 federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, looked at the approaches to welfare reform taken in nine counties around the Bay Area. 

Austin said incentive money provided in the legislation had allowed counties to address problems at the local level in areas such as transportation, family support, job programs and child care. 

Among the outstanding programs cited in the report were neighborhood job centers in Alameda County, a “Job Keeper” hotline in Santa Clara County to address employment problems, a coalition of nonprofit services in Napa County and an “Adopt-a-Family” program in San Mateo County. 

Although the report was positive about the efforts of individual counties, Austin cautioned that the report did not assess the impact of welfare-to-work reforms on individual families and children of welfare reform.  

So far, he said, that impact has been cushioned by good economic times. 

“We are very concerned about whether welfare recipients are being trapped into entry level, minimum wage jobs,” Austin said.