Welfare Deform Turns 10

Welfare reform, or deform as us welfare rights activist like to call it, turned 10 years old August 22. 10 years of punishment for the poor.  People who commit serious crimes receive shorter terms of punishment. Since I am a welfare rights activist and a former welfare mother myself, a great many people have been asking me what I think about “the system” on its 10 year anniversary.  And I tell them, I think what I thought 10 years ago when I was the one being forced to deal with these drastic changes to a system my children depended on for support.  I think “the system” sucks and it is only getting worse. We thought we had fought the fights and succeeded in making positive changes in our state so that people could actually benefit from having to rely on the system.  We won access to education including higher education in 2000.  This was a big win for our state but now it looks like we are going to have to fight for it all over again.  Due to the passage of the deficit reduction bill this year the federal government issued new regulations for welfare programs.  These new regulations state that college education can not count as a work activity. Beginning October 1st our state is going to start denying WVWorks benefits to welfare mothers in college, mothers who are trying to make a future for their children, unless they work 30 hours a week in addition to attending school.  This is just crazy.  What are these students supposed to do?  Quit school and work some minimum wage job.  We all know that a minimum wage job is not going to get your family out of poverty.  The best way to get out of poverty and stay out is through education and training.  The problem is this time around our state can’t change the rules or even bend them.  This time we have to go to the national level and fight for this change.  We have to take our case to Washington and let our congress persons know that this just isn’t right.  It’s not right for our families, it’s not right for our state, and it’s not right for our country. I want you to remember when your sending your kids to school on Monday and your telling them the only way to succeed in life is to stay in school and get a good education, I want you to remember all these people who in October will be forced to choose between education and having money for basic necessities, I want you to remember me, a welfare mother who in 1999 was told the same thing and stood up and said no and worked to change the laws in our state.  I want you to stand up and I want you to say NO.

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