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            DAWG Makes Education Count

Direct Action Welfare Group (DAWG) was founded by welfare mothers in college. We were fighting to make sure education counted as a work activity.  To this day higher education and the right to an education are a big part of DAWG.

In 2000, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 577, which was widely viewed as landmark legislation in the wake of welfare reform.  The bill allowed West Virginia TANF recipients to count education and training as a work activity.  This bill allowed people to pursue college degrees and still receive welfare benefits.  West Virginia was one of the first states to allow this. 

DAWG continues to fight to ensure that everyone who wants to pursue higher education has that right.  West Virginia is still one of the few states that allows post-secondary (college) education to count toward work requirements for a welfare check.  But we are in danger of no longer having this option.  Due to the recent Budget Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) the federal government has changed what can count as a work activity.  And one of the things that no longer counts is higher education.  This means people who receive welfare can not go to college.

According to a new release from the Census Bureau the value of education has increased.  In 2004, adult high school dropouts earned an average of $19,169. High school graduates earned $28,645. And people with a bachelor’s degree earned $51,554.  We all know that the surest way to get out of poverty and stay out is to have a good education.  I’m not quite sure why our government can’t figure this out.

            That is why it is necessary for us to tell our representatives in our states and in Washington DC that we still think higher education is important for people on welfare.  We need let them know that we want education to continue to count as a work activity.  In West Virginia, we are working with our state officials to find a way to make sure the 500+ welfare mothers currently in college are allowed to finish their education. And we want to be sure that others are also allowed to become economically secure through access to education.

Solution

            States can create a state-funded program. Then TANF recipients can  have access to college without  violating federal policies or costing the state additional money.  The money for a fully state-funded program would come from money not currently counted toward the Maintenance of Effort - MOE. (MOE funds are those that the state must put up as a match to receive federal TANF dollars.) Existing programs such as Pre-k, afterschool programs, teen pregnancy programs, or  services for families that are currently funded with state money can be shifted to count as MOE money. Then the state money that is already being used for these programs could be freed up to fund a program for TANF moms to attend college.

A number of states have adopted creative approaches in this area.  For example in Georgia, MOE funds are used to transport low-income children to state funded pre-kindergarten programs. Idaho and New Mexico have used TANF and MOE funds for early childhood programs and Head Start expansion. Indiana has used TANF and MOE funds for a home visitor program for newborns.  There are ways that our states can find the money to continue to support welfare mothers in college.  What better investment can our states make?  A few years of support and in the end they have a truly “self-sufficient” citizen who will contribute to the tax base and the state economy. If you want to know more about our fight to save education, help support our work, or want help to make this happen in your state please contact us at  304-539-3157 or  info@wvdawg.org

 

Evelyn Dortch

DAWG

PO Box 20079, Charleston, WV 25362; www.wvdawg.org

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