Killing CalWorks

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While the budget impasse drags on in Sacramento and the governor and his legislative allies propose the elimination of welfare-to-work programs, I am disturbed by the extreme disparity between lawmakers and the people they are supposed to represent.

As an employment counselor at a local nonprofit, I am grateful for the chance to provide job readiness training and job search support through Sonoma County's CalWORKS program. The clients I serve receive Temporary Aid for Needy Families.  The financial help they receive is tied to participating in job search programs or schooling. Not only do welfare-to-work programs enable people to search for a job, but the money extends positively throughout our community's economy by keeping people like me employed as well as my clients. With unemployment at 12.2 percent in California, a cut this extreme -- and nothing is more extreme than nothing -- would devastate thousands of families and increase the debt and unemployment rate in California.

I witness every day how my clients work tirelessly to find employment. They are indeed no reflection of the far too popular image of welfare recipients who bleed the system dry, as I fear the governor and other lawmakers believe. Why else would they consider such a fundamental program eligible for elimination?

As I witness my clients, people from all walks of life, struggle to find a job and still somehow keep their spirits positive and motivated, I wonder how the governor's and other lawmakers' attitudes might change if, god-forbid, they walked a day in their shoes. How would they feel when a grocery clerk looked down on them when they use their EBT card? How would they feel if they had to take the bus for an hour just to travel a few miles? Would they be able to cut their own family's budget to survive on public assistance? Or would just an hour of seeing the reality of what it is to be on public assistance be powerful enough for lawmakers to reconsider cutting such a valuable program?

With a Perspective, I am Rhiannon Coxon.