President Bush’s budget plans are affecting every aspect of American society, including programs such as welfare reform that may need financial support the most, said Gordon Berlin, senior vice president of work, community and economic security at Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.
Berlin spoke yesterday about state programs’ accomplishments in welfare reform and how future federal plans may not adequately support these successful programs.
MDRC is a non-profit organization that seeks to influence welfare policy.
Presenting programs from states such as Oregon, Minnesota and Connecticut, Berlin separated states that focus on a “work-first” approach from others that focus on an “education-first” approach. While both individual approaches were more successful than the control group, he said, programs similar to Portland’s that mix these approaches worked dramatically better.
But Berlin said Bush’s plans, which establish standards that welfare programs must follow, discourage state efforts.
“Nothing in the new law is helping state reform. They are creating a public policy against state programs that have been proven to work,” he said.
Some University students were unaware of state welfare reform plans like the ones Berlin spoke about until they attended yesterday’s lecture.
LSA senior Hung Lin said he enjoys such forums because he can learn about current issues and ideas from professional speakers.
“These talks are invaluable to us. You don’t have to be someone special to attend these – anyone can. While some professors lecture from textbooks 10 years old, we can listen to lectures about current issues outside of the classroom,” Lin said.
“This talk informed me of things I wasn’t aware of before. I didn’t really know a lot about what’s going on or with Bush’s policies and states trying to improve employment,” LSA sophomore Carolyn Huang said.
Berlin was critical of Bush’s plan, which he said includes enforcing a requirement that 70 percent of welfare recipients work at least 40 hours a week, providing limited training for the first three months and promoting marriage.
“Bush wants to limit training programs to three months, but it takes six for true improvement, as shown by Portland’s welfare reform program,” Berlin said.
The 40-hour work week requirement will force states to abandon the programs that have been so successful in the past, Berlin added. This will involve starting completely new welfare programs, and the startup phase has always been the hardest part, he said.
“I don’t actually think this debate in D.C. has anything to do with 2002 or 2003. When the world is fundamentally different than it was many years ago, it’s disappointing to see people haven’t realized it,” Berlin said.
The National Poverty Center sponsored the lecture, titled, “What Have We Learned from Welfare to Work Studies?”
“This talk is one in a series the National Poverty Center is putting on this term,” said Todd Bartko, program manager at the National Poverty Center. “We are trying to bring in people with expertise related with poverty research and welfare reform in our effort to help educate all of us here and keep dialogue with researchers in this area all over the country,”