A Montgomery County program to aid the working-poor families who lost welfare assistance because of federal budget cuts helped one-eighth of the families find a better-paying job or job training.
According to a report released yesterday by the county's Office of Economic Development, the five-month program spent $240,000, or about $3,400 per family. The money was used for household expenses, job-training and job searches.
After the federal budget cuts of last November, the County Council appropriated $363,000 to keep the working-poor families afloat financially. Of the 574 families losing benefits, about half of them asked for and received job help from the county.
Of these 289 families, only 33 have moved on to higher-paying jobs following the county's help. The heads of another 36 families are engaged in full-time training for better jobs.
The county did not spend about a third of the money the council approved for the program. When all of the training is completed later this year, about $123,000 of the initial appropriation will remain, program officials say.
"We feel this has been a very successful program," said Alan Kutz, of the Office of Economic Development. "We believe the program will pay for itself within the next year because the families who were once receiving public assistance will be working on good jobs and will be taxpayers."
John Weakland, the program's administrator, said all of the families consisted of single parents with one or more children. Typically, the head of the household had literacy problems, earned between $3.35 and $3.75 an hour in menial jobs and had no transportation.
In one case, a woman from El Salvador with three children who earned $3.50 an hour as a domestic worker is now completing an English course and will eventually be trained in word processing at Montgomery College, Weakland said. When her training is completed, she is "virtually guaranteed" a job that will pay about $13,000 a year, he said.
The county arranged for the only male in the group, a car washer who earned $3.60 an hour, to learn tape deck and air conditioning installation from his current employer, a car dealer. The dealer agreed to pay him $5.50 an hour during his training, with the county supplying half his salary. After training, the man will earn $6 an hour, Weakland said.