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Lowry Praises Jobs Program Does Well At Getting People Off Welfare, Into Jobs

FROM FOR THE RECORD (Friday, May 3, 1996): Alloy Trailers and the Teknon Corp. received commendations from the governor Wednesday for their involvement in a state program to get people off welfare. An article Thursday misidentified the companies.

An increasingly popular state program pries people off welfare and helps them land jobs at a record pace.

The rate at which welfare recipients become taxpaying employees has risen eightfold in the past three years, according to state records.

The Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program is credited with helping 300 people get off the public tab in January 1993.

The state’s welfare population has remained constant at about 100,000 people, but the number of recipients finding jobs soared to 2,400 last month.

Gov. Mike Lowry is so enamored with the statistics that he’s touring the state to praise businesses participating in the JOBS program.

The governor visited Spokane Industrial Park on Wednesday and congratulated Huntwood Industries, a cabinetmaking factory, for hiring the poor.

Lowry said the state’s welfare emphasis has shifted from a maintenance program to job preparation. JOBS teaches welfare recipients job skills and recruits workers for businesses.

All public assistance offices in Spokane now post prominent signs saying, “What can we do today to help you find a job?” “The vast majority of people who are on welfare want to work,” Lowry told a room full of politicians, bureaucrats and business owners.

Jerry Friedman, assistant secretary of the state Department of Social and Health Services, said the state sold businesses on the program with a different welfare-to-work pitch.

“We used to go to businesses as social workers and ask for their compassion,” Friedman said. “Now we go as marketers. We say, ‘We can help you achieve a better bottom line.”’ Friedman said the JOBS program’s popularity also has grown as the state has expanded its services.

State workers now screen welfare rolls to find qualified job applicants for businesses. The state also provides customized training to help fill specific openings and covers side expenses, such as transportation, to help welfare recipients start work.

JOBS increasingly is paid for by a variety of non-profit job-training and job-placement organizations that get grants from the federal government.

The program’s appeal crosses party lines. “I think this is the answer - or at least one of the answers,” said state Rep. Duane Sommers, R-Spokane.

However, Sommers said the program would work better if Democrats would agree to Republican proposals to cap welfare eligibility at five years or less.

Lowry passed out commendations to three Spokane companies involved in JOBS: Allied Trailers Inc., Techron and Huntwood Industries.

Huntwood’s Tim Hunt kidded Lowry that he supported JOBS despite being a “devout Republican.”

Lowry later poked fun at his own spendthrift liberal stereotype.

When a door to the cabinet factory was opened, Lowry said he loves the howl of the saws.

“That’s the sound of jobs,” he said. “Those are jobs producing taxes to pay my salary.”

, DataTimes



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