Reform and Census Top Issues at 24th Annual City Human Services Meeting
Crystal D. Swann
Thirty-three city human
services officials representing cities such as Denver, Chicago and Boston
assembled in Washington, DC for the 24th Annual City Human Services Meeting
May 7 - 9. The meeting is sponsored by the United States Conference of City
Human Services Officials (USCCHSO), a twenty-five year old affiliate
organization of the Conference.
Effects of Welfare
Reform on Children and Families Continues to Concern City Officials
During the three-day
meeting, the human service administrators met with top-ranking
Administration officials from the Departments of Health and Human Services,
Labor, and the Administration on Aging, as well as top lobbyists from
national advocacy organizations in Washington.
Human service officials
consistently expressed concern about the effects welfare reform has had as
families leave the welfare rolls and entering the workforce. Speakers and
presenters stated that these families for the most part are entering the
workforce under-skilled, underpaid, and depressed. Welfare caseloads have
fallen dramatically in almost every state since the early 1990s, states a
recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. However, the
hourly wage for those individuals leaving welfare is typically less than $8
per hour and a large portion earn less than $6 per hour." states Liz
Schott, the Center's Senior Policy Analyst. "Families, especially parents
that leave welfare often do not have health insurance (including Medicaid)
and only one third of those leaving the rolls are receiving food stamps.
Only between 15 and 30 percent of families receive childcare subsidies,
while many others face other types of hardships such as inability to buy
food and pay rent or utilities."
Under the new program of
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), states have tremendous
flexibility in spending the largely fixed block grant. Some states are
implementing creative initiatives to improve the lives of these low-income
working families whether on there own or through the directives of federal
agencies. The Healthcare Financing Administration (HCFA) has recently
directed states to reinstate families improperly terminated from Medicaid.
officials and advocates alike stressed that states retain the right to make
use of these resources and increased flexibility at their discretion.
Advocates urged city officials to urge Congress to increase the quality and
availability of childcare, affordable healthcare, and housing.
City Human Services
Officials and US Census Bureau Join Forces on Census 2000
During the meeting, U.S.
Census officials and human service officials held a joint press conference
to discuss the Conference of Mayors involvement in the Census 2000
promotional campaign, How America Knows What America Needs, and in
particular, how census data directly impact vital city human services.
"As human services
officials, we know first hand how critical census data are to ensuring the
provision of essential local programs and services for our communities,"
stated USSCHSO President Willa Lister. " Human services officials have
direct contact with traditionally undercounted populations - the poor,
minorities, children and those living in rural areas - who are most in need
to the services we provide."
adopted four additional policy positions:
These policies will be
forwarded to The United States Conference of Mayors for consideration
through the appropriate committees and possible adoption at the Annual
Conference in Seattle June 9-13.