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Welfare Turns Miser

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Four years ago a three-day demonstration by welfare mothers and their supporters led to the largest series of mass arrests ever in Ann Arbor.

The protestors were demanding money to buy clothes for their kids. The Washtenaw County welfare department insisted it had no money.

But this year, as it did last year, the welfare department is going to return a surplus of $70,000 to the general county fund.

The fact that the money was not used points up a major fault in how the welfare system is run both here and across the country.

The leftover money if from the "direct assistance" fund, which is set up for unemployed people who don't qualify for other categories like ADC.

The catch is that welfare workers decide who gets the money and who doesn't. For example, a middle-aged TV repairman who gets laid off might receive help. But a freek who can't find a job might not.

Alfred Brose, the county welfare director, acknowledges the problem, "We can never quite make up our minds about when do you and when don't you issue money."

So in cases where there's any "doubt" about the need of applicants, Brose says, the department automatically turns them down.

The result has been huge surpluses two years in a row.

So next year the county board of commissioners has reduced the "direct assistance" fund from $263,000 to only $200, 000. Which means that: people are going to continue to get less and less help from the welfare department.