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Skip Humphrey: Welfare
By Laura McCallum
August 10, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

ATTORNEY GENERAL SKIP HUMPHREY says Minnesota has a unique opportunity to pare down its welfare rolls. With a worker shortage and unemployment at less than 3 percent - if the state can train welfare recipients, they'll find jobs.

Humphrey: The challenge today from every business that I hear is, "Give me the well-trained worker. I'm ready to hire." So this is where I think the public effort and the resolution of our welfare system - the mindset has changed. People are serious about saying from the public side, "We want you to work." I'll never forget my father saying, "The best welfare program in the world is a good job."
So far, Minnesota's welfare reform initiative is showing some success in getting people into jobs. During the first two months, about a fourth of welfare recipients were working. Under the 1997 law recipients will be cut off from welfare benefits after five years. For people enrolled now that deadline will fall in July of the year 2002, during the next governor's term. Humphrey says the problem areas will be inner-city neighborhoods, some minority communities, and teenagers on welfare. He says state officials need to work hard to help people get the education and training they need to find jobs before the cut-off, and recipients need to do their part, too.
Humphrey: They need to understand there is a bottom line, there is a measure. That there is five years that you have throughout your lifetime, and you need to deal with it. Now, I think most people are going to be able to gain that kind of work.
Humphrey says government should play a significant role in helping welfare recipients with two common barriers to employment - day care and transportation. Humphrey's budget plan includes a new childcare tax credit of up to $1000 per child for up to two children. He says the state needs to place more emphasis on early childhood development.
Humphrey: This is where Head Start is very important. One of the key factors of helping people lift themselves out of poverty is to get their children started early on. I want to see more full funding of Head Start and really reaching out to all those that at least right now are eligible.
Humphrey's budget doesn't fully fund Head Start, and DFL opponent Ted Mondale has criticized him for that. Humphrey's plan does propose a new child fund of $110 million every two years, which Humphrey argues gives communities the flexibility to decide whether to fund Head Start, all-day kindergarten, or other children's programs.

On the issue of transportation Humphrey says he envisions a comprehensive initiative that includes light rail. He says he would work with the state's Congressional delegation to get Minnesota's share of federal funding.

Humphrey: Many times people don't have the cars, or they don't have the means to get there, or it's so expensive that they can't afford it. So we need to develop a transportation system in our metropolitan area, but also all throughout our state. There are regions throughout this state where it isn't just metro mobility, it's Minnesota mobility that has to be dealt with.
Humphrey says the combination of better transportation, more child care options, worker training, and well-paying jobs should help all welfare recipients find work within the 60-month window. Officials with the State Department of Human Services say it's probably unrealistic to assume that everyone on welfare will have a job after five years, and they plan to come up with some projections for the 1999 Legislature.