The director of the Southern Regional Council predicted yesterday that 60 percent of the welfare recipients in the South will lose all or part of their benefits because of cuts initiated by the Reagan administration, triple the proportion projected by the government.
Steve Suitts said in an interview that a study by his organization calculated that 1,355,920 of the 2,223,000 people on aid to families with dependent children (AFDC) in the 11 southern states will be forced off the rolls or have their benefits reduced. "We are taking money away from people who are already dirt poor," he said.
Laura Genero, press secretary to Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard S. Schweiker, said Suitts' figures "don't gibe with ours" and are "far in excess" of anything the department can forsee. Schweiker declared on Sept. 21 that nationwide, only about 17.6 percent of the AFDC population would be affected by the Reagan administration's program changes, which were enacted by Congress last summer.
Schweiker, in his Sept. 21 statement, said that nationwide, 687,000 families, containing just under 2 million people, would lose some or all benefits as a result of Reagan changes. That means the changes would affect about 17.6 percent of the 11.1 million people on the rolls nationwide.
However, Suitts gave these calculations yesterday for the South alone: 218,890 would lose benefits from specific eligibility restrictions in the budget bill. An additional 444,667 probably would be pushed off the rolls under a little-noticed provision requiring recipients to report their financial situation monthly, which is much more frequently than now. The 444,667 figure was calculated from the non-reporting rate in a South Carolina experiment.
He said the SRC calculated 470,030 more would get lower benefits. Finally, some 222,333 would be cut off the rolls, SRC calculated, by new budgetary restrictions being prepared by the administration now.