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Legislators Considering Tweaking Welfare Reform

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RALEIGH — Getting welfare recipients off welfare and on their feet sounds like a good idea. Balancing the system though, isn't easy.

Under a proposed North Carolina Senate bill, the waiting period to reapply for welfare would become shorter. Some people feel that would take away the incentive for recipients to make it on their own and make it easier for some to get back on welfare.

Two N.C. women validate that argument. They say the knowledge they would have to wait 3 years to get back on welfare provided them with the incentive to turn their lives around.

Anita Ogbonna is a 34-year-old mother of two who, for the first time in her life, found herself dependent on welfare.

"I worked at DMV as a temp for four years and I was never picked up permanently," said Ogbonna. "I applied but I was never picked up. So I knew I had to go back to school so I can find a permanet full time job with benefits."

Having to go on welfare thrust her into the state's Work First program which prepares recipients for the professional workforce. Now she's ready for a permanent job.

"If I get this job I would get off Work First completely, because it pays enough and it has full time benefits," says Ogbonna.

Sandra Hardcastle is another Work First success story, now beginning her career as an administrative assistant. "She says if she had only had to wait one year to reapply for welfare she might not be where she is today.

"There was no incentive to get off the program so I'd just hit one job here, another job there and really not have too many goals for myself," says Hardcastle.

Both women say a three year wait to reapply for welfare benefits forced them to get out and make it on their own for the sake of their families.

"I want to be able to make a way and be able to show for my children that they can do for themselves ... that any goal can be attainable," says Hardcastle.

"I want my kids to go to college and I want them to have a good life. I don't want them to struggle like I did," says Ogbanna.

Since July 1997, Wake County Social Services reports assisting almost 2,000 people in finding employment. As of June of this year, 584 former recipients of welfare are now off the program.


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