New York State Assembly introduces welfare policy that might work

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jun 1 13:49:44 UTC 2007

Maureen Lane
Bravo State Assembly! You've Introduced Welfare Policy that Will Work

Good news! A new NY State Assembly bill could mean a small shift toward
underscoring the role that government plays in mitigating poverty. For far
too long, jobs that simply don't pay enough to boost someone over the
poverty line have held people in place, grinding down their economic hope.
Certainly, if nothing else, hope is the cornerstone for a thriving

A partial solution - at least - may be on its way:

NY State Assembly bill 07990 ensures comprehensive assessments and
development of career plans for participants; sets forth a definition of
sustainable living wage; provides for review of specific
employment-related skills and abilities; requires a preference for
unsubsidized employment; requires social services officials to establish
collaborative relationships with local employers in the private sector.
What does that mean? After a family has become stable, or rebounded, after
the crisis that brought them to welfare, a trained professional affiliated
with this government program will interview the head of the household to
see what their skills are, what their needs are (literacy, language,
education and training, childcare etc...). The professional will then
develop a plan to help that person get and retain a living wage job.

The bill stems from evidence that welfare reform policy has not been
successful in reducing poverty and facilitating the transition to economic
security for many families. I applaud this bill's proposed assessments and
career plans - these are truly needed for each person receiving public
assistance. A good assessment will lead to a specifically tailored career
plan for each individuals unique needs and abilities, and this training
will provide the much-needed groundwork to help people on public
assistance land the living wage jobs that will allow them to work their
way out of poverty.

In fact the state has developed such an assessment and it would be smart
to use it statewide. Localities can be directed to make use of the best
practices of the state and good assessments and plans for poor families
are just the right way to go statewide, if not nationally.

In addition, the bill directly focuses on improving people's ability to
obtain unsubsidized employment in a position that pays a sustainable
living wage (defining this wage at 185% of the poverty line). The bill
points out that "Currently, many recipients are placed in subsidized
employment, WEP [work experience program - NYC workfare] activities or
educational programs that do not necessarily improve their long-term
ability to obtain unsubsidized employment that pays a sustainable living

Education and training are key here. Welfare rights activists know they
work and the general public knows they work. "Public opinion supports
access to these services as a way to greater economic security. When asked
what government benefit would most help poor families get ahead, a
majority (89 percent) of moderate and high income New Yorkers and low
income New Yorkers (68 percent) identified skills acquisition (training
and higher education) as a first or second response. Basic education,
including pursuit of a GED, and English for Speakers of Other Languages
also received significant support from both moderate and high income New
Yorkers and low-income New Yorkers. "

The bill is a modest one and moves clearly in the right direction. I urge
the New York State Senate to get going on introducing it in their chambers
and encourage other states to take a look and even share what their doing
already on this score. Good substantive assessments and career plans can
be hopeful tools for families often discouraged by the economies they
cannot control.

Posted by Maureen Lane at May 31, 2007 06:35 AM


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