Public Assistance

Welfare Reform

As a result of the enactment of the 1996 welfare reform measures, the "case load" of families in West Virginia who receive public assistance has been reduced by well over two-thirds. The savings in federal monies generated by those reductions has not always been productively used on behalf of those in need. The American Friends Service Committee report, Nobody Asked Us, was full of stories of no available jobs, inadequate transportation, lack of child care, poor access to medical treatment and a host of other problems facing families trying to move from welfare to work. People's main complaint, however, was that they were not treated respectfully or in a dignified manner by program workers. Much remains to be done to ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.

Principles For Action

"It is evident that not all social welfare programs have been successful. Some have been ill-designed, ineffective and wasteful. No one has been more aware of this than the poor themselves, who have suffered the consequences. Where programs have failed, we should discard them, learn from our mistakes, and fashion a better alternative." (U.S. Bishops, Economic Justice for All, #192

"We ask everyone to refrain from actions, words, or attitudes that stigmatize the poor, that exaggerate the benefits received by the poor, and that inflate the amount of fraud in welfare payments. These are symptoms of a punitive attitude toward the poor. The belief persists in this country that the poor are poor by choice or through laziness, that anyone can escape poverty by hard work, and that welfare programs make it easier for people to avoid work. . . Some of the most generous subsidies for individuals and corporations are taken for granted and are not even called benefits but entitlements. In contrast, programs for the poor are called handouts and receive a great deal of critical attention . . " (Economic Justice for All,#194)

"We believe that we are still called to defend Earth and the poor together, to learn from the wisdom of , to care for God's single web of life. In these tasks the land and the people of Appalachia are once again a precious gift to us all." (At Home in the Web of Life, p. 9)

Suggested Policy Directions

We support policies that would:

  • encourage education as the best means of escaping poverty by providing workable options
  • make quality child care available in every county
  • encourage employers to consider on-site child care through grants and other incentives
  • explore options for aiding people in obtaining reliable transportation to work
  • increase housing options for persons with limited incomes
  • assure food security for every resident of our state
  • create jobs with just wages and benefits