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North Carolina Misses Welfare Deadline

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RALEIGH — The federal welfare reform law is designed tomake people more responsible for their own lives as well as to saveworking taxpayers millions of dollars. The first deadline under that lawpassed 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 ofpeople on welfare rolls with a special emphasis on getting two-parentfamilies off welfare. The overall numbers are encouraging in NorthCarolina, but the state missed out on that one goal.

Work First participants are people on welfare actively lookingfor jobs. They're learning how to write resumes, use computers, bettertheir lives. Ricky Wilson is a Work First participant. He says most arevery 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 mostagressive Work First program.

But for two-parent familes on welfare the news isn't so good. The numberof those recipients has dropped by only 29 percent. The federal governmentwanted 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 towork.

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

The director of the statewide Work First program says the federal goalfor 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 meetingrequirements, so state leaders all over the country are very concerned.

Every county in North Carolina has seen welfare rolls drop since WorkFirst started. Orange, Johnston and Cumberland Counties are enjoying a lotof success, each having cut the number of welfare recipients by around30 percent.

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

Photographer:Keith Baker

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