ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s welfare caseload has decreased by 68.7 percent since January 1995, officials from the Department of Human Resources reported to state lawmakers Tuesday.
The decline means that Marylanders receiving temporary cash assistance has dropped to 71,363, down from 227,887 in 1995, although officials admit the caseload decreases have leveled off.
“We have come a long way in five years,” said Senate Minority Leader Martin Madden, R-Howard, chairman of the Joint Committee on Welfare Reform. “People that are leaving welfare are finding lives that are better for themselves and their children.”
The state is down to the cases that are the most difficult – those with “multiple barriers” — said Charles Henry, executive director for the Family Investment Administration.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the economic fallout from them, may push figures up in the coming months, said state officials who have been monitoring welfare applications. They said they expect the economy will stabilize by spring and caseloads will drop by the end of 2002.
Analysts from RESI, a research institute at Towson University, are forecasting a moderate economic contraction for two or three quarters through the second quarter of 2002.
“The big unknown is what happens in light of the economic slowdown prior to Sept. 11 and particularly what happens after that. There are a lot of challenges ahead. It’s a different economic climate now,” said Madden, who is serving his seventh and final year on the committee.
The state budgeted assistance for 68,000 welfare recipients, 3,000 clients short of the Family Investment Administration’s goal. But, FIA officials said 96 percent of clients who had received more than two years of temporary cash assistance are working, an increase of 3 percent from last year.
In January 2002, the five-year limit for Maryland’s first welfare recipients will expire. However, the Family Investment Administration making provisions to extend benefits for 586 welfare families. The state will be able to provide benefits to qualified families through July 2004.
“No family will lose assistance just because of an arbitrary time limit,” said Henry.
Louise Meyers, a welfare advocate for veterans, said getting off welfare sometimes “can take a lifetime.”
Baltimore remains the area with the greatest concentration of welfare clients, more than 62 percent of state welfare cases, however the city’s caseload has declined by about 58 percent since 1995. Another 11 percent of state cases are in Prince George’s County.
The state has been successful in hiring addiction specialists in local social services departments everywhere except Baltimore, where they need 23 more such specialists. City officials hope to be at full staff by spring.
Local governments have been successful in hiring welfare clients, with almost 2,100 hired. However, state government has fallen 30 short of its goal, placing 70 clients at state government jobs. FIA officials blamed the low state hiring on problems securing child care and transportation.
Employment and recidivism outcomes for Marylanders leaving temporary cash assistance are positive and coincide with those reported in other states, according to a study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
The study also revealed that the majority of welfare families receive food stamps and medical existence after leaving public assistance and few families are receiving a child care subsidy during the year after leaving welfare.
Welfare recipients have been hired mostly in service industries, however job stability is higher among those employed in public administration and the health and social services sectors, the study said.
Average quarterly earnings in the quarter after leaving welfare were a modest $2,654, the study said, and only 4.4 percent of Marylanders live in poverty.