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Wash. Cuts Benefits To Welfare Families

In a single day, Washington has cut more than 5000 families from the state’s welfare-to-work program.

That’s because a strict, five-year limit on benefits kicked in Tuesday. It’s a cost-cutting measure ordered by the Governor.  Austin Jenkins spoke with one mother who lost her benefits.

Ceci Stringer stood outside the Governor’s office with welfare advocates and told her story.

Ceci Stringer: “I’m a single mom with two kids.”

A two-year old and four-year old. Stringer has been on and off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — as welfare is now called — for more than five years.

Previously, as long as she complied with the rules of the program and looked for work, Washington would let a mom like Stringer stay on past the 60-month limit.

But Governor Chris Gregoire says the state can no longer afford that leniency.

Stringer says she can’t afford to take care of her two kids without the $170 a month she received in cash benefits.

Ceci Stringer: “My daughter has three diapers, no wipes. I can’t survive that.”

Stringer worries she’ll next lose her subsidized apartment.

Asked why five years wasn’t long enough to get back on her feet, she says pick your reason: domestic violence, depression, recovering from two c-sections, lay-offs.

Stringer is applying for a hardship waiver from the five-year cap because her daughter is on the Autism spectrum.

Welfare advocates estimate 10,000 kids will be affected by this loss of benefits. They say the timing couldn’t be worse because of the economy.

More than 60,000 remain on TANF. But they too are experiencing a cut.

As of February 1st, Washington reduced the monthly cash grant by 15 percent. That means a family of three that previously received $562 per month will now get $478 in cash assistance.

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