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Help working poor Proposed food stamp, family initiatives could ease financial pain for households

Welfare reform has been a success in moving people off the rolls, but it doesn't address the pain of working for pennies in a low-wage job and needing to feed a family without the benefit of food stamps.

A proposal by Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer to expand access to the food stamp program for low-income working families should fix this flaw, while another proposal focusing on fathers should help stabilize the family environment for children. Both work toward sustained economic stability.

The first proposal would extend federally funded food stamp benefits to as many as 100,000 additional households, or more than 200,000 people, over the next 18 months. "The Working Families Food Stamp Initiative," parts of which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, contains adjustments that would create an easier process -- recognizing, for example, that modern computer tracking can prevent duplication and fraud without some time-consuming enrollment steps that now make working parents take time off their jobs.

The initiative also includes a waiver on resource limits that would allow food stamp recipients to save money for some family needs, a child's college education, purchasing a first home or opening a retirement account. The idea is to not only get people working but also allow them to move up the economic ladder, ending the need for supports.

The food stamp proposal works best in tandem with a proposed "Strengthening Families Through Stronger Fathers Initiatives," which focuses not just on assistance but on improving parenting skills, building healthy family relationships and improving job skills. That would help keep fathers in the picture, and improve the chance of better upbringing for children.

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