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Work still trumps welfare

I am writing in response to the recent commentary, "In Maryland, it pays not to work," (Aug. 14). The author correctly notes that "there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy." Unfortunately, he then goes on to speculate that a significant number of welfare recipients have made an economic choice to stay on welfare instead of seeking work.

Fortunately, we do not have to speculate about the welfare caseload in Maryland. Since welfare reform passed in 1996, research from the University of Maryland School of Social Work paints a far different picture. Over 74 percent of individuals who receive cash assistance spend less than a year on welfare before leaving. In addition, welfare recipients are no strangers to work — over 70 percent of recipients have worked prior to receiving cash assistance.

The university's research also shows that approximately 60 percent of the individuals who have left welfare since 1996 in Maryland have not returned. Those who do return face real challenges such as a lack of education and training and the need to care family members with physical and intellectual disabilities that make getting and keeping a family sustaining job very difficult.

Long-term success comes not only from continuing to send a message that work is indispensable to leaving poverty but also making sure that we address the underlying issues that often cause individuals to return to welfare. This comprehensive approach has helped Maryland move 12,349 individuals from welfare to work last year — a 16 percent increase from the previous year and a record for the state.

Ted Dallas, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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