Local News

North Carolina Misses Welfare Deadline

Posted October 1, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— The federal welfare reform law is designed to make people more responsible for their own lives as well as to save working taxpayers millions of dollars. The first deadline under that law passed Wednesday night, and North Carolina did not meet certain requirements. And that could cost state taxpayers

The federal government wants to lower the total number of people on welfare rolls with a special emphasis on getting two-parent families off welfare. The overall numbers are encouraging in North Carolina, but the state missed out on that one goal.

Work First participants are people on welfare actively looking for jobs. They're learning how to write resumes, use computers, better their lives. Ricky Wilson is a Work First participant. He says most are very motivated to make things better for their families.

At least some of the numbers out of North Carolina are encouraging. The state has reduced its total welfare enrollment by 29 percent. That's higher than the 25 percent goal the federal government set.

Program director Pheon Beal says NC developed one of the first and most agressive Work First program.

But for two-parent familes on welfare the news isn't so good. The number of those recipients has dropped by only 29 percent. The federal government wanted a 75 percent drop.

Breaking those barriers is what the Work First program is about. It functions to give people a chance to get off welfare and get back to work.

Particapant Monica Bass says she is learning about more than just getting a job.

The director of the statewide Work First program says the federal goal for two-parent families may not be realistic. Few states are likely to meet it, but there is a risk of losing federal money for not meeting requirements, so state leaders all over the country are very concerned.

Every county in North Carolina has seen welfare rolls drop since Work First started. Orange, Johnston and Cumberland Counties are enjoying a lot of success, each having cut the number of welfare recipients by around 30 percent.

While still seeing a decrease in welfare rolls, Wake, Warren and Durham counties are having a harder time getting people into the work force.

Photographer:Keith Baker