The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas on June 6, 1968 · Page 2
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The Courier News from Blytheville, Arkansas · Page 2

Blytheville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 6, 1968
Page 2
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'.In* T*» — ,fjyft«ffl« (Arf.) Cwirter New - Tharrtsy, June 9, 1»» Welfare: What's So Wonderful? ^(Continued from Page One) work . training program for two reasons. "Our -surveys show that 70 percent of these people want to work ... if they know how and can. get a job. They'd prefer to work. Even in Harlem — where you hear, people don't want to »6rk — most of them would like to have a job. ~<L''Ihe increase in the number of people on welfare concerns me. Right now, four and one-half percent pf our child population is on welfare. We're |fid4hat it may be 10 percent." yiVho told you that? ' - j~ "People in ; the various departments who survey these things." ;.Are you really for equal opportunity for all American cit jzens and do you believe you can' defend yourself on this count with your record? fj'JCertainly. I've always been lor,- equal opportunity for all people. That's why I'm in favor of a training program. I don't see how we can achieve equality,.,of opportunity with people who do not have the b a s i c skills." The welfare recipient lives in another world with another set of values. .'•'-. He is not a part of the work force which makes America go. He is bewildered by the complexity of it. He doesn't, understand how the System works. He sometimes fears a job under the capitalistic system and with reason. 2'We must be realistic when we look at, this," County Welf|te Director Leroy Richardson cpinmented. . i*'Here you have a woman who's been on welfare. Maybe sfie gets $75 a month, which isn't much but she can count on it. Maybe she has a child or t\yp and no husband. ;."She gets a chance at a job, making $120.:.a month. She'l! pfpbably take it. But she probably isn't trained to do much. H'The chances are that' she'll lojie the job, or that when the first slack season comes she'll bfj; the first laid off. It takes four to six weeks for her to get back on welfare." ^Richardson didn't say it bul for a mother of two with no income those can be very crue' w;eeks. -"So what does she do the next time a job is available? She may choose the security of heir constant welfare money over the chance to earn more . ,-. and that's bad." It may be bad, but It also is understandable. "In other words, the system is bad. it is bad when a mother musi weigh the chance to advance herself against the bread which goes into her children's mouths It:'!is bad wen she's afraid to move up because moving up al so'can mean falling lower than the bottom rung if something goes wrong. Richardson figures that the sort of reasoning which obtains inVthe rationale which accuses the unwed mothers of having babies in order to collect more inrJney would apply to the sinless American middle • class family, too. ."She gets about $10 a month for added children, if they are dependent," he said. "I think that $600 per child income tax exemption figures out to about $10 a month in tax savings for the average wage earner. "So by the same token, this wage earner could make money off government credits if he keeps having more babies and gets more income tax credit. ;'. * * * .The mothers who collect a handful of dollars each month under the ADC program are given to wonder if they can hojd the home together from month to month. ;Mrs. W. is 33 years old, has six children, ages 12 ta 3, and a»" husband. She collects |95 • .month in welfare payments. She pays $30 a month rent, $3.66 for water and $7 for electricity. She pays $42 for food stamps, which will enable her to buy $32 worth of groceries. However, when she earns an «$ra $6 a week the cost of her food stamps goes up to $50. .ghe's not working now but is looking forward to doing a little work ai n domestic when school li;but and her 12-year-old (wi* help from an aged neighbor) can UKe e«r« of the children, Thii Ne0r* mother worta 'our hours for three dollars. Some days she works five hours :or three dollars. She's a high school graduate and is reasonably bright and cheerful. She has been in touch with the family planning services program of the Office of Eco- icmic Opportunity because, as she explains, she "can't afford the children I have." She thinks more and more women like herself will avail :hemselves of family planning services. .She..would like to work full time, but still has three children at home with no - one to look'after them and is'hot sure she could get a full time, job although she's confident of her ability to hold one if she got it. Her three - room home is about as clean as conditions will permit. A rug is folded scainst the living room door to prevent dust from seeping in. A cat dozes on the back of an ancient, compact sofa which once would have been designated "modernistic" or "s t ud i o furniture." While we were talking, two dogs bounded in through the kitchen door, which was open. She shoo'ed them right back out. , A half - dozen happy little brown children came in, hard on the heels of the dogs. One of them climbed a small stove and found a piece of cooked sausage on a shelf. 'There's some there for the rest," she smilingly told the youngster. "I always have a few extra," she said pointing to the crowd in her kitchen. Only three of them were hers. Mrs. X. was not laughing. She was sitting in her clean little $25 a month home with tears coming down her cheeks. She is 47 and white and fears she may be on the verge of losing her $75 a month welfare check. She has two dependent children, 5 and 8.; Her tiny home was furnished by Mississippi County Union Mission. "We were sitting on our suitcases in here until the Mission sent this." Mrs. X's common law husband left her with the two chit- dren and a handful of monthly payments and no income. She only barely has made it. Twice she has found herself begging someone to take the children because she. could see no way to feed them and .keep them in school. .The Aid to Dependent Children check is all that's keeping the family together. She has a bit of skill as a seamstress, weaver and ironer and occasionally picks up a bit of money in this fashion. She reports all her income to the welfare office, as is required by law, and because some unexpected business fell her way she fears she may lose her check. This would hurt because the volume of business will not hold up and it will take four to six weeks to get the checks started again. Richardson admits that the delay in getting people back into the welfare payment system is one of the major hang-ups. For example, Mrs. Z's husband is dead and she's the mother of seven children "at home." She draws the maximum $125 a month in aid to dependent children and when asked if she had rather work, she thought carefully before answering. Finally, she admitted it was difficult for her to answer. "What you really mean is that you can be sure of welfare but you can't be sure of a job, isn't it?" That, ihe said,- was the way she felt. But if you knew you could get right back on welfare something happened to the job, would you take the job? "Yes, if I knew there was i goad place to take care of the children." * *. * There are limes when it is impossible for.women to draw aid for their dependent children. For example, if a woman is mother of illegitimate children, her first move, Deputy Prosecutor Graham Partlow (who makes no secret of the fact that he is hard pressed to discover personal lympitby for mothers of illegitimate children) explains, it tc file a civil action in county oourl In order lo legally prove paternity. Thii" will cott from (100 to $200. These costs are out of the question for most of these women. They never- had, never will have that kind of money. • One Blytheville businessman recalls that he paid $150 in legal .costs for his domestic. "She'll pay me back over the months ahead. I know that a lot of them aren't as lucky as she." .Even, with his admittedly "tough" attitude toward these mothers^ Partlow agrees that they need legal aid, however, he likes to point out .that some of them won't prosecute. the fathers of their, bastards. They must prove that they cooperated with the deputy prosecutor in pursuing prosecution of the father in order to qualify for their welfare checks. ; Sometimes, in order to do this, they must hire an attorney and go to court to institute the civil proceedings (Partlow himself will handle, any criminal action without charge to the mother). At limes, Partlow figures the whole matter is not worth pursuing. ("If the father is in another state, we're Just out of luck. We can't touch him."), at other times there are so many doubts in the matter that he leaves unanswered the question "Did applicant fail to cooperate?" evidently hoping for the best. ..•*•'* '*' The Aid to Dependent Children program then is much misunderstood. Those who marched on Mills' office seem to make no more, effort to understand it than spotless middle - class America, which looks down on such goings on from its lofty point, of moral judgment. The Poor People's Campaign charged Mills' amendment with taking the mother away from the children. , , It would do no such thing. The marchers also appeared lo express the desire of. the mother to be a permanent .welfare recipient and never to work. . . . : This is not what the mothers say. Even the brilliant young deputy prosecutor — Partlow — and assorted newspapermen did not understand that a woman does not keep adding to her check with each new illegitimate baby. This probably is the m o s t widely - circulated myth about ADC. But there is another one and it more more peculiar. It is unspoken, but genuine. If articulated it would go something like this: "It is a part of the American-. Christian tradition that the sins of the parent should fall on the children and these welfare payments keep that from happening." They do not, actually. Try raising your child on $10 a month. The children are suffering right along, thank you. An Arkansas newspaper this month said in an editorial: "The government allows the. taxpayer a $600 exemption from his. income tax base ... But' when the government takes! care of the children by itself it I is more generous and far more' realistic: "Under the Air to Dependent Children program the allowance goes up to $800 per year..." Try telling that to a mother of seven who is collecting $125 a month. Another myth: the poor by the thousands collect this money. Mississippi County has around 30,00 people living in the official poverty range. Only 454 mothers in the county collect ADC payments, however. This seems very small. To Richardson, however, "it is very large." He scans the tables of figures for other c o u n t i e ; and finds -that Mississippi is third largest in ADC payments (behind Pulaski and Phillips). Richardson of course calls the figure "very large" principally in terms of its relationship with other Arkansas counties. 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