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State of Washington - Bill Reforming State's Welfare Program Goes to Governor

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State of Washington - Bill Reforming State's Welfare Program Goes to Governor

Post by gigichicago on Sun May 15, 2011 3:04 pm

"OLYMPIA — The Washington House approved 70-10 Friday an overhaul of the state's WorkFirst program that tightens controls over how welfare payments may be spent.

The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

All five Kitsap Peninsula Democrats voted for the bill.

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Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, had an excused absence.

The state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program includes a WorkFirst component that requires recipients to seek jobs.

A state study unveiled in February said the WorkFirst program cannot adequately function in its current financial set up. The study recommended a review of eligibility requirements and of the amounts of financial assistance given to families.

The bill suspends the WorkFirst requirements for some families until July 1, 2012, when the state Department of Social and Health Services is supposed to begin phasing in a revamped WorkFirst program.

About 70,000 families are now on the TANF program, which served just more than 52,000 just three years ago. About half of the families leave the program after 18 months, while about 40 percent stay on it for an extended period. A family can stay in the program for up to five years.

The program handles a wide range of clients, including people trying to recover from job losses and short-term financial crises, people with handicaps or a lack of education, and people who abuse the system.

Recipients access the benefits using Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, cards. The bill prohibits TANF recipients from using EBT cards for alcohol, tobacco products, tattoos and body piercing.

The bill also would require certain businesses to disable their ATM and point-of-sale machines from being used by EBT cards. Businesses include taverns, beer and wine stores, liquor stores, bail bond agencies, casinos, body art shops, adult entertainment businesses, and places where people younger than 18 are prohibited."


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