irst it was the head of the Texas AFL-CIO with his "Yankee, stay home" warning. Now comes the Texas state government with the reasons why.
In what may qualify as a landmark in the art of public relations, the Texas Department of Human Resources has produced a pamphlet entitled "Dead Broke in Texas?" It says, in essence, if you are, tough luck.
The publication, which has been distributed to DHR outlets in Houston, Dallas and El Paso, openly describes the state's dismal standing on welfare payments.
Texas, which anticipates a budget surplus of about $500 million in the current biennium, ranks 49th in the nation in welfare spending, running ahead of only Mississippi.
"We don't make any secret of it," said Bill Woods, DHR information director. "Texas has been conservative for a long time."
The monthly Aid to Families with Dependent Children payment for a family of four in Texas is $140. That contrasts to $492 per month for a Michigan family and $327 for a similiar family in Ohio. Many of the people to whom the DHR pamphlet is directed have lived in the Midwest.
In addition, eligibility standards in Texas are strict. Unlike some states, Texas doesn't have an emergency assistance program under AFDC, nor will it provide aid to intact families, families in which the father is present.
"Unemployment alone is not a factor," Woods said.
The state constitution prohibits spending more than $80 million in state funds on welfare payments, a figure that has remained constant since 1969. An amendment that would change the ceiling will be put to voters in November.
The DHR pamphlet is intended for the thousands of migrants streaming into the state from depressed northern states who can't find a job and end up applying for state aid.
Only last month, Harry Hubbard, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, warned his union brethren in the North that they should stay where they are because the recession had spread to Texas. The pamphlet is for those who didn't get the message.
"It's an effort to be up front and to say if you come down here, don't expect to find in public assistance what you were accustomed to back home," Woods said of the DHR pamphlet.
"We're not saying 'Yankee, stay away from our door' by any means. But it's going to help for people to know before they come here and get into the kind of bind they can get into," he said.
The idea for the brochure originated with DHR employes in Houston working along a major highway that serves as the avenue into the state for many northerners. They were being inundated with pleas for help, and found the newcomers increasingly angry with the services provided by the state.
"The new arrivals are proof that lots of people who need a helping hand aren't moochers. They want work," the pamphlet says, adding, "But the fact is that DHR doesn't have the money, staff or authority to give all these people all the help they need."
"This was an attempt to be helpful," Woods said. "In the long run I think it will be."