Part of my job at the Philadelphia Unemployment Project two summers ago was tracking several Philadelphia newspapers each day for coverage of the impact of debates over the welfare reauthorization bill on the lives on thousands of Philadelphians. The short summary of that research would be: there wasn’t any. This is probably when I developed my now deeply-ingrained dislike of the Philaelphia Inquirer, and also when I started joking that were the city of Philadelphia to explode, the paper’s banner headline would read “SUBURBAN FAMILIES FACE DELAYS GETTING TO WORK.” Unfortunately, that still seems to be the case. There was one exception yesterday, however: a good piece on the dangers posed by the PA Welfare Department’s proposed cuts in assistance for transportation, rightly titled, “Paths to better lives are at risk“:

Created during welfare reform in the late 1990s, the QuickSilver is among two dozen local transit services that may dwindle or disappear through widening holes in Pennsylvania’s safety net. Facing a budget crisis, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare plans to cut 30 percent of funding for these routes under the department’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 – which could mean fewer buses or none at all on some local routes serving nearly 3,000 people a day. The department threatens to ax the program by mid-2005, if the funding problems remain. Working with SEPTA, seven agencies in Southeastern Pennsylvania provide transportation for poor workers isolated from suburban jobs. Some have grown weary of unpredictable state support for transit…”These are real people that really need this service,” said Tom Klevan, coordinator for Altoona’s transit provider.

As Congress remains focused on Iraq, welfare reform languishes with Head Start and transportation funding in a long line of issues overdue for legislative reauthorization. As a result, welfare grants to states remain stuck at 1996 levels. In a sign of the times, Andrew Bush, who presides over federal welfare aid for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is on assignment in Iraq, advising its new government how to build a welfare system.

More like this, please.

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