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Welfare Reform Planning

August 27, 1996
By: ELIZABETH McKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's welfare reform is ahead of the game, despite a federal law recently signed by the president that called for major changes in the system. But you might have to wait a year before seeing any change.

The new federal legislation gives states a planning period to review the reform measures. Denise Cross, with the state's Family Services Division, said the Missouri Social Services Department will have to look closely at the federal law because it is so complicated. The department has until July 1997 when the federal law goes into effect.

Department officials say this will give them time to plan a strategy.

Since 1994, Missouri has required all recipients of welfare to be employed after 24 months, or their cash benefits stop. If a job was then lost, the same person would be entitled to welfare benefits again. Now, under the federal law, there will be a "five year lifetime limit for cash assistance," Cross said.

"Missouri is ahead of the game in many ways," said Deb Hendricks, spokeswoman for the welfare agency. "We're still analyzing to see what steps will be taken next."

Hendricks said since 1993, the state has saved $33 million from state welfare reforms. She said 35,000 people, who were on welfare without work, have found jobs.

The federal law also requires minors with children to live under the supervision of an adult. But a Missouri law already requires minors who are parents to live in a supervised setting.

In the meantime, "There's nothing different at this exact time," Hendricks said.