Originally created 12/08/96

Public forum supportive of welfare plan



Welfare's most vulnerable recipients will be protected when Georgia's welfare reform starts next year, the state director of the plan said at a public forum Saturday.

Reforms will be geared toward taking recipients off welfare rolls and into the workforce, said Michael Thurmond, director of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. The effort includes limits on how long recipients can get benefits.

But children, disabled people and the elderly would be exempt from those time limits, Mr. Thurmond said.

About 50 people attended the forum, held at the University Hospital Auditorium. Some voiced concerns that the new plan forces too many changes too quickly.

"I see it as a low blow," said Eloise Canon. "I believe we should have had more time to work this out."

She said the plan is vague about what will happen to children if their parents are taken off the program.

"I haven't seen anything that says these children will be protected," she said. "We need to know that."

But most speakers expressed support for the changes.

"After decades of public investment in the welfare system, it has never been more clear that the current system is a failure," said Amy Bilskie of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. "We support Georgia's welfare plan because it is fair and compassionate, yet tough in its attempt to fix the problems of the past."

Kim Lee of Augusta agreed.

"I feel everybody should take care of their responsibilities," she said. "Everybody needs help now and then, but it's supposed to be temporary."