Mayor Marion Barry's administration yesterday opposed a workfare proposal being considered by the D.C. City Council that would require most welfare recipients to work at private or community service jobs in order to obtain benefits, and instead outlined a plan to expand job and training programs.
The city would have to create 6,000 to 8,000 jobs within the D.C. government or elsewhere for welfare recipients to meet the workfare requirements, D.C. Social Services Commissioner Audrey Rowe told the council's Human Services Committee.
"We do not believe that community work experience, in and of itself, will assist large numbers of clients to secure unsubsidized jobs," Rowe said in a prepared statement.
Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), committee chairman, said after the hearing she thought the council would want to start with a small, voluntary jobs program for welfare recipients that includes support services, similiar to what the administration proposed, but with more council oversight.
Workfare is "sort of a punitive thing" that would require more bureaucracy and might result in replacing some regular government employes with participants in the program, she said.
While workfare plans have grown in popularity, Rowe said the most successful ones are in rural areas and an administration review found no large urban area similar to the District that has adopted an Aid to Families with Dependent Children workfare program.
Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) introduced the workfare legislation in February to require all employable recipients of public assistance to register for job training or work. Those who could not find jobs elsewhere would be assigned community projects long enough to earn the amount that they receive in public benefits. Exemptions were included for disabled persons, women expecting to give birth within three months and students under 16 years of age.
Nearly 23,000 District families, almost all headed by single women, receive a total of $43 million a year in public assistance.
Another proposal, introduced by council member John Ray (D-At Large) and cosponsored by 11 of the 13 council members, would create a voluntary program that would entitle all AFDC recipients to education, job training and support services. It would start with a pilot program of 1,000 participants.
The administration's proposal would add from $1 million to$2 million to about $5 million already approved in the city's fiscal 1987 budget for job training for recipients of AFDC and would serve 4,500 people, Rowe said.
The city might need to spend an additional $2 million on day care services for the children of participants who get jobs.
Working from existing programs, the effort would entail assigning a case manager to each participant to coordinate individualized plans for getting welfare recipients into jobs.
Representatives of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO endorsed a voluntary, rather than mandatory, approach.