JEFFERSON CITY _ The target of Missouri's GOP welfare reform is a program that affects more than 91,000 Missouri families.
Its name: Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC.
AFDC is designed to help needy parents provide for their children. But whether AFDC actually helps children or hinders them by catching their parents in the welfare trap is the main issue in this year's welfare debate.
To be eligible for an AFDC check, which averaged $261 a month in Missouri in 1994, a family must have at least one child under 18 who lacks financial support from a parent because of death, disability, absence from home or unemployment.
With some exemptions, AFDC is not available to a two-parent family in which at least one parent is capable of working.
This means that AFDC is given primarily to single parents, which has some arguing that the program fosters illegitimacy and discourages marriage.
One Republican proposal would set up a pilot project in St. Louis that would give AFDC eligibility to two-parent families.
Current eligibility also hinges on whether the family's income, resources and property value fall below certain guidelines.
Families who receive AFDC assistance receive monthly checks until the parent or parents are able to provide for the children.
In the current budget year, AFDC is project to cost the state of Missouri $115 million in state funds and $174 million in federal funds.
The average size of a family receiving AFDC benefits is close to 3 persons. Over 70 percent of families on AFDC have two or fewer children. Fewer than 4 percent of the families receiving benefits are two family households.
About 58 percent of AFDC households have been on AFDC for more than two years. If the Republican plan passes, these recipients would be cut off from payments.