"Welfare Reform" Is Pushing Women Into Unwaged Work -- It's Time to Change

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By Sarah Jaffe, Truthout June 29, 2017


"Welfare Reform" Is Pushing Women Into Unwaged Work -- It's Time to Change 

Welfare reform briefly became a hot topic on the campaign trail last year when Hillary Clinton was criticized for supporting the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law with great fanfare by President Bill Clinton, who famously declared that the law would "end welfare as we know it." The law did precisely that, turning the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, which came along with stringent requirements for the people, most of them women, who received it. Since that time, extreme poverty has spiked in the country, and the share of single mothers with no income or benefits has gone from 12 percent to 20 percent. But welfare rights activists never stopped fighting for their rights, and many are backing a bill being reintroduced by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, the RISE Out of Poverty Act.

Reverend Annie Chambers (Big Momma’s House, Baltimore, MD): I am one of the eight women that started the National Welfare Rights Organization … But now, the system has changed, it's so bad for people that we have got to get back to that. That is what we are talking about now. Even training the younger people -- the younger men and women now, because a lot of men are raising their children -- to come back to the drawing board. They really need to know how to organize, how to go into the districts, how to work with district managers and social workers and fight for what they need. Even to go to the governor, the White House. I have been locked up in every state in the United States because we got out there and fought.

Contact Rev. Annie Chambers at 443-768-7682, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 247 N. Dallas Court, Baltimore, MD 21231

Rachel West (US PROStitute’s Collective, San Francisco Bay Area): We are supporting this initiative because when welfare reform was brought in, millions of women were literally thrown into the street -- no income, nothing. How were women supposed to support their kids when that happened? Well, it is even documented now that women went into prostitution. A lot of women had to feed their kids. Into shoplifting, selling drugs, whatever women could do to survive. Into so-called "crimes of poverty." Then, what happened was a lot of women ended up going to prison. There is a direct connection between welfare reform and women going to prison for crimes of poverty. We know the fastest growing prison population now is women, mostly women of color, and 70 percent are mothers. That is the major reason why we are supporting this, because we don't think women should be forced into prostitution through poverty and lack of any means to be able to survive. Contact US PROStitute’s Collective at https://uspros.net/ or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Pat Gowens (Welfare Warriors, Milwaukee, WI): On welfare, ever since 1996 when the Clintons did the welfare reform bill, the moms have to work for no pay for 30 hours a week, and the average check is $390. For instance, in Milwaukee, our Head Start program was using 96 women at 20 hours a week for no pay. No pay, no Social Security credits, no unemployment credit, no protection from sexual harassment, because there is no money. And you have to do that to get a $390 check…and if you don't, you get sanctioned. The welfare bill (the TANF bill) allowed time limits to be as low as 18 months to two years. In Wisconsin it is two years. After that, you can't get any benefits. So, if you have no job, you are in the street with no money, no benefits… The RISE Out of Poverty Act would say that instead of only allowing mothers to do this unwaged work, that women could do their mandatory hours on job search, number one, and they could also do it going to college... In the states right now, they can require the mother to leave their babies at two months, three months, whatever, one year. In Wisconsin, it is two months. At that point, the children have no one-on-one care anymore from their mom, and the mom has to again go into that unwaged workforce or, if she can find a job, the paid workforce. This [RISE] would say the states couldn't do that. They would have to let the mothers be home…one year…or more… [and] they can't use the TANF money simply to take children away because of poverty.

Contact the Welfare Warriors at www.WelfareWarriors.org, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. For the full article and to add your comments: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/41100- welfare-reform-is-pushing-women-into-unwaged-work-it-s-time-to-change-that Or listen to the whole interview https://thebaffler.com/interviews-for-resistance/the-poor-under-attack