Even as the city starts spending its $88 million in federal welfare-to-work money on the controversial Work Experience Program (WEP), a local group released a study last week that finds that workfare has done little to help welfare recipients find jobs and get off the dole.
Community Voices Heard, a membership group for people on welfare, surveyed about 500 welfare recipients. Four to six months later, CVH caught up with a smaller follow-up group. They found that only 6 percent of those who had been in WEP had found a job, and they were one-fifth less likely to be getting help finding work through a government job placement program than recipients who weren’t in WEP.
Four out of five of the WEP workers surveyed said that they are doing tasks identical to those of city employees. “We lost 20,000 good union jobs,” said Bill Henning, vice president of the Communication Workers of America, Local 1180, which represents city workers. “It’s no surprise that 35,000 WEP workers were doing the job of these workers no longer on the payroll.”
Training and skills were the biggest obstacles to employment: Only about 40 percent had a high school diploma, and two-thirds had not worked within the last two years.