ANNAPOLIS – The statistics indicate that welfare reform in Maryland has been a breeze. But the people behind the statistics said it has been anything but.
Without continued government help, some said, it would have been impossible for them to get off welfare and stay off.
Angela Thomas got a court clerk’s job when she got off welfare, but helps make ends meet for herself and her three children by doing hair in her home on the side — a skill she acquired in state-supported cosmetology courses.
She used state-funded child care while she was in cosmetology school and is currently enrolled in the Extended Medical Assistance program. Under it, former welfare recipients who get jobs and go to work are automatically eligible for state- backed health insurance for a year.
“Even though I have health insurance through my job, it’s nice to know that it is available for my children” Thomas said.
Catherine Born’s study of 2,156 former welfare families in Maryland shows that while reform appears to be working, many of those who returned to the welfare rolls often did so because they had sick children.
Steven Hall, 32, of Baltimore, agreed that it is important to make sure that those who began new jobs still have health care.
“Medical care is definitely important. The medical insurance retention for one year is definitely a plus,” said Hall, who is rearing three daughters by himself.
Hall was a security supervisor for two convalescent homes, but he was thrown out of a job when the businesses were sold. He attended community college while drawing unemployment, but those benefits soon ran out and he went on welfare.
He received assistance for a year, finished school and got a job as a computer information service specialist for Baltimore County Social Services in November.
“Even though you get a job, it’s still a rough road to gaining financial stability,” he said, explaining that most people are usually still in debt from not working.