Mayor Bill de Blasio is revamping the city’s welfare program, vowing to dismantle what was once the largest workfare program in the nation and to embrace new strategies for moving thousands of people off the welfare rolls and into jobs.
Workfare? Do you remember workfare? It is the program that ballooned during the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, with 36,224 people working in it or assigned to it by the year 2000.
The program mostly dropped out of the headlines after Mr. Giuliani, a Republican, left office, but his work-first ethos still prevails: In April, 9,194 welfare recipients participated in or were assigned to workfare, and thousands more were required to engage in job-search programs that de Blasio administration officials have described as largely unsuccessful.
Now, Mr. de Blasio says, it is time for change.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, plans to prioritize education and training for able-bodied welfare recipients instead of automatically assigning them to workfare positions — cleaning parks and subway platforms and performing clerical duties — that have been described as dead ends by advocates for impoverished families.
Over the next two years, city officials say, those workfare jobs will vanish completely and be replaced by transitional employment programs, internships and community service positions in growing sectors of the economy to ensure that more welfare recipients find paying jobs.
Research shows that programs heavily focused on education and training have been less successful than others at moving welfare recipients into the workplace. And somewhere out there, Mr. Giuliani must be wagging his finger, warning of the dangers ahead.