CalWORKs recipient numbers rise in county
While fewer people statewide need welfare compared to five years ago, Nevada County has seen an increase in participants of the California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids program, state figures show.
The county’s overall 11-percent increase ” including a slight decline from 2005 to 2006 ” could signal a continued shift in the local economy from high-paying manufacturing jobs to low-paying service jobs, experts said.
Neighboring counties show mixed trends, with Placer County rolls rising, though less than in Nevada County, and Yuba County rolls shrinking.
In Nevada County, 1,217 people received CalWORKs help in 2006, compared to 1,091 in 2001 ” a gain of 11 percent.
Meanwhile, the entire state had about 1.8 million CalWORKs recipients in 2006, down 15 percent from 2001, according to the California Department of Social Services.
CalWORKs is a cash program for families who have lost a parent, a job or who are needy caretakers of foster children. Qualifying families are those who need money for emergency housing, food, medical care, clothing or utilities.
The number of people in the program has seen a steady decline ever since welfare was reformed nationally in the late 1990s, forcing recipients into the work force, according to department spokesman Oscar Ramirez.
“Most recipients entered the work force and retained their jobs,” Ramirez said. “There’s also the limit of five years of benefits. That’s what I attribute (the decline) to.”
Linked to economy
“What typically happens with CalWORKs is it correlates with the economy,” said Jeff Brown, director of Nevada County’s Human Services Agency. “When it takes a downturn, people are more apt to apply for it” and get off it when the economy improves, he added.
A 4-percent decrease of CalWORKs recipients here, amounting to 50 people from 2005 to 2006, may indicate people are leaving the county, Brown said.
But that small dip should be taken in context, warned Brent Smith, chief executive officer of the Sierra Economic Development District in Auburn.
“Even a large change in a small population doesn’t mean much,” Smith said.
The six-year upward trend for CalWORKs recipients in Nevada County “Is probably because of the jobs mix shift to lower-income jobs,” Smith said.
In neighboring Placer County, the numbers have been consistent and increasing slightly ” from 3,006 recipients in 2001 to 3,165 on the rolls in 2006, an overall 5-percent hike.
The rise could signal an increase in disabled people applying for CalWORKs during the past six years as Placer County’s population has boomed, said Cindy Woodyard, a program manager in the county’s human services agency.
“Many factors impact caseload, like what’s going on in your work force,” Woodyard said. “It’s hard to tell.”
In Yuba County, CalWORKs numbers have been steadily dipping the past six years, reflecting the state trend. Yuba County had 6,274 people on the rolls in 2001 and 4,801 in 2006, down 22 percent. Calls to the that county’s welfare department were not returned to The Union.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 +/-
Nevada County 1,091 1,161 1,203 1,255 1,267 1,217 +126
Yuba County 6,274 6,301 5,806 5,619 5,451 4,801 -1,473
Placer County 3,006 3,017 3,140 3,007 3,101 3,165 +159
Statewide California 1,386,629 1,387,632 1,259,317 1,248,083 1,245,339 1,181,162 -205,467
Source: Department of Social Services
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