LA County Wants to Make Welfare Easier to Get

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal Tuesday for loosening welfare eligibility rules.

About 7,000 families unsuccessfully apply for CalWORKs welfare-to-work assistance and about 19,000 households are turned down for food stamps each month, according to Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Families with more than $2,000 in accessible cash resources -- $3,000 if they have a family member aged 60 or older -- or a car worth more than $4,650 will not qualify, according to the Department of Public Social Services.

"These families are in tough situations," Molina said. "In many cases, we've forgotten some of these families."

In response to a Los Angeles Times story, Molina drafted a proposal to seek temporary waivers and other legislative remedies to make sure that more families are eligible for government benefits.

"We are experiencing the worst recession in decades," she said. "As more and more people lose their jobs and search for new ones in a shrinking job market, many families are finding themselves, often for the first time, with inadequate funds to pay their rent/mortgage, keep their utilities and provide food for their children."

The proposal was approved by three of the five supervisors, with Michael Antonovich abstaining and Don Knabe absent from the meeting.

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Though county staffers said that federal government will pick up the bulk of the tab, Antonovich worried that the proposal could leave the county on the hook for the expanded program indefinitely -- especially when federal funding runs out.

On his recommendation, the proposal was revised to make it clear that the eligibility requirements would be altered only temporarily.

Molina's motion also directs the county CEO and the Department of Public Social Services to address housing needs of families who have fallen through the cracks of the public assistance system.

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