RALEIGH — North Carolina's welfare reform is going one step further with the debut of "First Stop" -- a program that puts the hunt for a job a step before someone can collect welfare from the state.
First Stop is the latest part of public programs that push welfare recipients to "earn their keep," according to administrators.
Under the new program you have to put your name on the job search rolls before it shows up on the welfare rolls.
People who need public assistance in North Carolina now need to make a stop first. Or "First Stop" to be exact. Starting today, all applicants need to sign up for work with theEmployment Security Commission.
Selina Hill is exempt from the requirements because she has a child younger than one year old. But, she's still signing up.
Listen toauorReal Audiofile."Well I think it's a good idea cause once your kids are over a year old it's time to go to work... they're old enough to put in daycare. You're gonna need a job you know... 'cause you can't be on welfare forever."
First Stop is the latest part of the Work First program, a program that has reduced welfare rolls by 31% since the summer of 1995.
Tawanda Richardson is part of the program. She says her biggest problems as she tries to get off public assistance are transportation and daycare for her two sons.
Listen toauorReal Audiofile."Right now you see them with me. Everywhere I go they're with me. If I even try to go get a job they're with me. I have a friend who watches them when I go into interviews, but it's hard still."Pam Pridgeon, with Wake County Social Services, says the agency is doing what it can to help clients, but says with help, they can do more.
Listen toauorReal Audiofile."We do our very best in order to help them with daycare we also help with transportation. We have ways of helping them but we're also looking to the community to come out and help us to be able to help the clients because it's something we need everyone's assistance with."We didn't find anyone who was not willing to look for work in order to receive public assistance. Daycare is a big problem, like the woman just mentioned.
The good news is Work First offers full-time daycare in exchange for full-time work, and part-time daycare for part-time work.
The early figures show the Work First program works. Seven thousand people a month are expected to register in the new "First Stop" program. That should help reduce North Carolina's welfare rolls even more.
Since Work First went into effect in June, 1995, 50,000 families have gone on the job and off state aid. That's a 31% decrease in the state's welfare rolls.