CHICAGO (AP) -- Women on public assistance told President Clinton's welfare reform task force Wednesday that the system is degrading and humiliating and has kept them back when they've tried to become self-sufficient.

Welfare To Work Studies Start

AP 08/11/93 12:30

   CHICAGO (AP) -- Women on public assistance told President
Clinton's welfare reform task force Wednesday that the system
is degrading and humiliating and has kept them back when
they've tried to become self-sufficient.
   "No one likes being on public aid," said Roxanne Betke, a
mother of three.  "The embarrassment and stigmatization affect
us all, especially our children."
   Betke's poignant testimony came at the first in a series of
public hearings around the country as the president's task
force begins its work to overhaul the nation's welfare system.
   Betke said that when she got on welfare, she was given a
number -- K21325.
   "This number enables the system to treat me as if I don't
have feelings, children, commitments, ideas or choices," she
said.
   Betke said she can't leave the system unless someone helps
her move forward, not backward.
   "If I get a job, I can't afford to support my family, if I
don't get a job, we are forced to live well below the federal
poverty level," she said. "Living on welfare is not a life
goal for me."
   The centerpiece of President Clinton's promise to "end
welfare as we know it" is his proposal for a two-year limit on
benefits followed by work.
   His welfare reform task force was scheduled to hear from
other welfare recipients during Wednesday's hearing at
Chicago's Kennedy-King Community College.
   The panel's blueprint is supposed to be finished by late
fall.
   For Letitia Lehmann, who was scheduled to testify later in
the day, there is more to leaving welfare than getting a job.
She has had to take classes to qualify as a teacher's aide,
find day care and get give up a steady check for an income
that fluctuates month to month.
   Lehmann, a single mother of three who has been homeless
twice, is making the climb from dependency to self-sufficiency
with the help of Project Match.
   An experimental welfare-to-work program, Project Match will
be featured at Wednesday's hearing. Task force members visited
its offices across from the Cabrini Green high-rise housing
project Tuesday.
   Project Match founder Toby Herr argues that the path out of
welfare and persistent poverty is a long and difficult journey
that does not end with the first job or graduation from a
training program.
   Participants in her program get long-term, individual
assistance as they move from the welfare rolls into training
or work, advance to better jobs or lose their jobs and try
again.
   Project Match, begun in 1985 and funded primarily by the
state welfare agency, has worked with more than 740 residents
of Cabrini Green and the surrounding community.


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