Many Families Choosing To Stay Off Welfare

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State officials predict that very few of the Ohio families whose cash benefits ended two years ago under welfare reform will be taking advantage of their renewed eligibility.

Under the welfare reform law enacted five years ago Tuesday, Ohioans lost cash benefits after 36 months of help. But the law allows them to reapply for assistance after a two-year break if they demonstrate economic hardship.

Some officials feared there would be a flood of applicants. But apparently most families are choosing to continue to go it on their own, said Joel Potts, Ohio welfare policy administrator.

He said the availability of jobs, higher pay, more-stringent welfare criteria and continued eligibility for much-needed services such as health care, child care and food stamps may keep many applicants off the rolls.

"While they're not making lots of money, they have more than they would if they were on welfare," Potts said.

A family of three can receive about $373 a month in cash assistance, while a full-time worker earning $6 an hour brings home about $780 a month.

"One of the goals for welfare reform was to make work pay, and Ohio's done a very good job of that," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)