The state Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program (JOBS), trains welfare recipients and helps place them in jobs – easing their dependence on state assistance. A mandatory program for many welfare clients, JOBS is a cooperative effort of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and the Employment Security Department (ESD).
In March, 1,924 JOBS clients joined the workforce - nearly twice as many as the same time a year ago.
Gov. Mike Lowry recently led a two day trip to seven cities in the state to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment, to recognize the dedicated people – workers, businesses and agency personnel – involved in making JOBS so successful.
"Every month, nearly three times as many people in this program enter the workforce as during the same period of time two years ago," Lowry said. "Those numbers alone are impressive. But more importantly, the statistics paint a vivid picture of how the welfare system ought to work - and quite frankly, how the system is starting to work in Washington state."
Numbers that span the first three months of this year are equally impressive. Since January, 5,084 JOBS clients started working, compared with 2,376 during the same period in 1995 and 1,714 in early 1994. (Supporting charts.)
Lowry said the recent good news doesn't mean the state can afford to slow its efforts to make the system more efficient, reduce fraud and help people find long-term employment. But while the state Departments of Social and Health Services and Employment Security continue to make progress in welfare reform, Lowry said, the new numbers are proof the state is on the right track.
"These statistics contradict the often-repeated myth that the welfare system is so out of control, the only way people on public assistance will ever get off the system is if we force them into the street," Lowry said. "Obviously, that isn't true. Plenty of evidence suggests that the availability of living-wage jobs, along with adequate support services, are the most important factors."
The odds of people on public assistance getting jobs - and keeping them - are greatly enhanced by four factors: adequate job training and education, available health care, affordable child care, and making sure that non-custodial parents meet their financial obligations.
Meanwhile, DSHS and ESD deserve credit for taking very specific steps toward helping more people on public assistance become self sufficient. Chief among them are recent changes in the 6-year-old JOBS program, a new focus by DSHS staff on employment and the temporary nature of welfare programs, and higher goals for job placements.
In May 1995, the JOBS program took steps toward becoming mandatory for people on public assistance, setting up four distinct "pathways" to help many more people join the workforce. According to their circumstances, people on public assistance who are capable of working are placed in pathways that either put them on a job search track, increase job skills, or help young parents complete their education.
Participation in the state's JOBS program became mandatory for all two-parent families receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in July 1995. Three months later, mandatory participation took effect for all AFDC parents whose children are older than three years of age. In addition, new efforts to create partnerships between local businesses and the programs that help prepare people for the workforce are paying off, increasing the likelihood that a company's commitment to hiring people on public assistance is also perceived as a smart business decision. The governor said the state is able to offer a number of support services to help employers and their new workers, including transitional child care and medical care, and help with transportation, licenses, and uniforms.
"These business partnerships are helping companies who need good workers and good workers who need jobs," Lowry said.
The governor's trip throughout the state included stops in seven Washington cities; Olympia, Tukwila, Yakima, Kennewick, Spokane, Vancouver and Smokey Point.
For information about JOBS, contact DSHS at 360-438-8400 or ESD at 360-438-4127.
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