October 24, 2006


Caption: Even this guy wouldn't do that.

Last week Charleston Gazette staff writer Scott Finn reported that college will no longer count as a work activity for West Virginia welfare recipients.

This gratuitous slap at poor people was brought to you by the Bush administration and its rubber stamps in Congress who passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

El Cabrero prefers to call it the Deficit-Reduction-Act-Which-Didn't-Reduce-the-Deficit since it slashed $40 billion in programs like Medicaid and student loans while cutting taxes for the wealthy by $70 billion.

The bill also included additional restrictions on the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

In 2000, a diverse and bipartisan coalition of West Virginians successfully campaigned to persuade the legislature to allow education from literacy to college to count as a welfare work activity. This was seen as model legislation for other states.

The state bill didn't pay for college--recipients had to apply for financial aid like anyone else. But it did allow people to spent their limited time on assistance in ways that made it possible for them and their children to permanently escape poverty.

The Gazette reports that 535 college students in the state may be harmed by this decision.

Here's an irony: the only member of the state congressional delegation to support the Deficit Reduction Act (which didn't....) was Shelley Moore Capito, who if memory serves supported the state college bill in 2000.

There may be a way to prevent the damage without costing extra money given the political will. It could be that WV may be able to count some current state spending as part of its Maintenance of Effort (MOE) money and free up funding for a separate state program.

More on this as it unfolds.


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