When it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, Americans say that Uncle Sam should be walking people into higher paying jobs, not down the wedding aisle, a new poll finds.
The poll, conducted last month on behalf of the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans—86 percent—favor government programs that help people secure better-paying jobs, including expanding eligibility for higher education, job training, and child care. In contrast, only 8 percent of Americans say that the government should be in the business of promoting marriage as a solution to poverty.
The national survey of 801 registered voters was taken to gauge public sentiment on various issues relevant to the reauthorization of the federal welfare program, TANF—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—which Congress is expected to vote on in the next few months. The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, has a margin of error of +/– 3.5 percent.
About 5,500 people are now on Montana’s welfare rolls, and those numbers are up considerably since Sept. 11.
The poll also found that Americans are more in favor of programs that provide work support for low-income workers, rather than imposing tougher work requirements on welfare recipients. Those results are in sharp contrast to a Bush administration proposal to increase work requirements for welfare recipients from the current level of 30 hours per week to 40 hours. Whereas 62 percent of those surveyed cited work support as their first choice for government priorities, only 15 percent gave top billing to implementing the tougher hourly work requirements.
The Bush plan includes $300 million in new money for experimental programs aimed at promoting marriage, with no new funding for worker training, child care or transportation. When questioned on this issue, only 5 percent of those surveyed said that marriage promotion should be the government’s top priority.
“What we know in Montana is that our wages are so low, it doesn’t matter if you’re a two-parent family or a single-parent family. You’re still poor,” says Kate Kahan of the low-income advocacy group, WEEL (Working for Equality and Economic Liberation). “It’s not about marriage being the solution to poverty. With WEEL having over half of our advocacy calls being domestic violence related, I don’t see marriage promotion as a sound policy in any way, shape or form.”
Congressional Democrats have offered an alternative to the Bush plan which would increase availability of child care, transportation assistance and other welfare-to-work programs. It also provides flexibility to the current five-year time limit imposed on welfare recipients, so that families who meet their work requirements do not have their benefits cut off.