Mayor Vincent Gray wants to further delay D.C. welfare cuts

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Photo - Washington D.C. Mayor, Vinent Gray, speaks at a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in southeast Washington D.C. Monday, June 2, 2012
Washington D.C. Mayor, Vinent Gray, speaks at a press conference at the Emergency Operations Center in southeast Washington D.C. Monday, June 2, 2012
Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,D.C. Council,Vincent Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray wants to spend some of the city's budget surpluses on needy families by delaying, for another six months, reductions to welfare benefits for District families who have been receiving public assistance for five years or more.

The D.C. Council passed legislation in April 2011 to bring the District closer in line with much of the rest of the nation by cutting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by 20 percent for families who had been in the program for five years or more.

In August 2012, the mayor's office proposed the first delay to additional approved cuts. That delay was approved by the council.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said this request for a further delay would go before the council on Tuesday.

David Berns, director of the city's Department of Human Services, attributed the proposed delay in part to the need to further assess needy families.

About 6,500 families have received support for five years or more, and an additional 1,000 are expected to hit the five-year mark in the next six months. About 4,200 of those families have been formally reviewed by the District, Berns said.

The District has already reduced the average monthly grant for families on welfare for five years or more from $370 to just under $300 a month, Berns said.

Unless the council votes to delay cuts Tuesday, an additional $70 reduction for those families is scheduled to go into effect April 1, bringing that average monthly payment down to just under $230.

Berns said the mayor also wants to delay the cuts in light of the chief financial officer's improved budget outlook for the city.

"The money is available, and it's the right thing to do," Berns said.

If the council passes the extension Tuesday, the mayor's office plans to propose pushing back another deadline. On Oct. 1, families who have received welfare checks for five years or more would be dropped from the program.

Berns said the mayor is still committed to pushing residents off long-term dependence on welfare checks.

"He has consistently been in support of the concept, and we're just trying to fine-tune it," Berns said.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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