Governor Shumlin explains his desire to place a cap on the
duration of benefits under the Reach Up program by saying that our
current system "does nothing to encourage people to get a job." He
also claims that the cap is, somehow, part of a plan to "fix the
benefits cliff, stabilize our welfare-to-work program, and promote
opportunity for welfare recipients."
Well, on what facts are these claims based? If there is one
program about which we should know just about everything, it is the
Reach Up program. The state's records should include the names of
everyone on Reach Up; how long they've been on it; the age and
health of the recipients; the extent and success of their efforts
to find work; and the main barriers they face in finding work.
Given the state's extensive knowledge of Reach Up participants,
isn't it odd that the Governor justifies his plan in
I hope that our legislators take the time and effort to gather
the necessary information before deciding if this eligibility cap
is justified or even wise. How many recipients will be thrown off
the program under the Governor's plan? How many children? The
state's most recent Reach Up report indicates that, on average, two
thirds of recipients are children, and a full 49% of all recipients
are 10 years old or younger.
The impetus for capping Reach Up appears to be a fear or belief
that many recipients are simply not trying to get off the program,
preferring for some reason to remain on welfare. Resorting to this
stereotype of the "lazy welfare queen" without citation of any
facts to back it up is beneath the dignity of a progressive
governor and a progressive state.
In closing, I recommend that the governor, and anyone else who
thinks that Reach Up recipients are "getting away with something,"
try the simple experiment of living for some minimal period-say six
months--on the resources that program provides. Let's then see how
many people think this program is a disincentive to work.
Lee Russ, Bennington Vt.