Opinions vary on effectiveness of Welfare to Work - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Opinions vary on effectiveness of Welfare to Work

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Camille Brister is a Welfare to Work success story Camille Brister is a Welfare to Work success story

There are more than 34,000 families in South Carolina receiving some form of government assistance to make ends meet. But more and more like Camille Brister are finding success through the Welfare to Work program.

"It was kinda' hard for me to let them know that mommy didn't have a job anymore," Brister said.

But two years after being laid off, Brister is finally off of social assistance and back to work.

"We try to help in that process by talking with employers as well as also requiring them to look for work on their own," said Darrell Kershaw with the Department of Social Services.

Despite the promoted success of thousands like Brister, many say the program has done little to address the growing prevalence of poverty.

"At the same time we're bragging about putting 18,000 people into low wage jobs without benefits, we're also saying we're not going to expand the Medicaid program," said Sue Berkowitz with the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center. "Our poverty level has increased and the number of children living in poverty has increased."

"Everyone's gotta' start somewhere, so they are willing to start over and build up," Kershaw said.

The average wage for those placed in the program is around $8.35 an hour and employment retention rates are generally strong.

"94% after three months, 89% after six months," said Kershaw.

"South Carolina is a high poverty state, close to 20% living in poverty," said Berkowitz. "We can brag on our successes but we have to admit when we haven't quite gotten there yet."

But for Brister and her three kids, the chance to once again become a provider has likely reshaped the future of her family.

"They were happy when mommy got a job, and mommy could do things for them, buy them things again," she said.

According to the Department of Social Services, 85% of families who get off an assistance program are still eligible for food stamps because they make less than 130% of the federal poverty level.

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