Columnist: Next steps for Troup workfare proposal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jeff Brown

Contributing columnist

In early March I wrote an article titled “Could we Offer Workfare versus Welfare?” Due to being out of town much of the intervening time I am belatedly writing this article to summarize the responses, report on some initial research and announcing times to meet for those interested in being involved.

I am very appreciative of the number of you who have indicated an interest in going to the next step with Troup Workfare (TW). Further I heard from some agencies/organizations who are already involved with our target audience — unemployed recipients of government monies — proposing how we might work together.

One even suggested using their clients as the initial group with whom TW would work. Some other cut and paste responses follow:

“While working in social work I clearly saw that as a society, we’ve taken away accountability; and through governmental ‘free’ programs … we’ve taken away motivation. When people don’t have motivation and accountability … they lose themselves and what they were created to accomplish; they’ve lost their potential.”

“Wow, I am in Jeff. It does seem like a worthwhile undertaking with lots of work, but the end results would change the lives of many.”

“I like it. I’m in. As Jesus said at the Bethsaida pool, ‘Stand and walk.’ This fits that command.”

“I like especially that the proposals base the work on research, collaborating with the NGOs, and permitting a wide range of activities for which work credit will be granted.”

Several people asked extensive questions about TW such that I had four exchanges of emails to answer one person’s questions. A key point here is we want TW to consider many points of view, but in the end this needs to help those in poverty get out of poverty in a self-respecting way that is affordable, fair and effective.

Here is one exchange: “Jeff, How do you propose to weed out the families whose mothers have taught the children to act in certain ways to qualify (falsely) for what they refer to as ‘crazy dollars?’”

My response: “The fact that they would have to work more when they receive more will have some limiting effect. In the life skills training there could be courses on the reality of how such practices result for the most part in very negative consequences for those children. Also the expectation is that Troup Workfare will result in more personal responsibility.”

Elizabeth Montgomery Scheine, a graduate of LaGrange High School, was my legislative assistant for the four years she was at Emory University. She just completed some background research on the Works Project Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservative Corps (CCC) that were implemented during the height of the Great Depression and involved over 11 million people.

As with other efforts to help those in poverty we want to learn from them. Perhaps this quote from Harry Hopkins who administered the WPA is a key goal for TW: “Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.”

The CCC was for low-skilled, unmarried men ages 17 to 28 and involved over 3 million. An intriguing statistic is that during the seven-plus years of this program there was a 55 percent decrease in crime among this age group.

Also, it became a training ground for the military. Perhaps with our proximity to Fort Benning some participants may be motivated to volunteer for the armed services.

A reasonable guideline for us to consider is that WPA required that 90 percent of the government monies for this program had to go to the workers versus supervision, equipment and materials.

There is a concern that prior to these programs there was very little government assistance, so there was much more of a work ethic than there is today. If accurate, many of the participants in TW will need more coaching on basic job skills.

Almost daily since I wrote the original article I have read studies and programs that could have a bearing on our efforts. An example is a study that Feeding America did indicating that 19.5 percent of Troup County citizens have “food insecurity.”

Think about what we could do with this in terms of significantly reducing it by education, have farming as an important project for those employed in TW and reducing fraud.

I could go on and on, but it is time to meet. We will have an organizational meeting Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. at the main campus of West Georgia Technical College in the LaGrange Room. Please park in the rear parking lot.

For those unable to meet face to face, we will have a conference call on Thursday, May 19, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. Please email me at with questions, how to participate in the conference call and/or suggestions.

This is a huge undertaking but we need to start so I hope you will join us.

Jeff Brown is a retired Georgia state representative where he served as chairman of the House Health Appropriations Committee.