Working On Welfare

Getting There

While training programs and tax subsidies may persuade employers to hire welfare recipients, they won't induce an owner to retain workers who don't show up, repeatedly arrive late or don't work a full day--common occurrences among women trying to transition from welfare into the working world. These attendance problems are typically caused by two issues government and business continue to grapple with: inadequate transportation and unaffordable child care.

Though many Americans struggle to find transportation and child care, employers often find that welfare recipients are particularly vulnerable to these problems. Consider these facts: Nationwide, 94 percent of welfare recipients do not own a car. Most also live in urban or rural areas, yet the bulk of new jobs being created are located in the suburbs.

To address problems such as these, an organization of civic, religious and nonprofit groups called the Welfare to Work Coalition to Sustain Success was formed in May. The coalition consists of community-based groups, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, that have created or expanded programs to give employers the resources they need to help their employees.

Beyond the coalition, states and local communities are also addressing these two critical issues. In the area of transportation, some small suburban firms have joined forces to provide shuttles and other transportation for their urban employees. And in Michigan's Menominee County, which had 119 families on welfare in June 1996, volunteers have heeded the call of Project Zero and have offered welfare recipients free haircuts, rides to work or child care while they search for jobs.

In Virginia, officials in Culpeper County created a countywide before-school, after-school and summer day-care program in conjunction with the local business community.

Obviously, there is no one solution to the question of how to get small business involved in hiring welfare recipients. From training costs to transportation and child care, there is still much work to do. It will take creativity, a willingness to invest time and money in employee development, and partnerships with government to create services that fill in the gaps between what welfare recipients have . . . and what small business needs.

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Working On Welfare.

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