Gov. Nikki Haley and state DSS director Lillian Koller announced Wednesday that 18,000 South Carolinians have gone from welfare to work since September 2011, when the agency started a new focus on jobs.
And with that number, 18,000, a 94% retention rate that they have stayed in a job. That is phenomenal," Gov. Haley said.
That's a 60 percent increase in the number of people getting jobs compared to before the welfare-to-work initiative.
They made the announcement at Akebono Brake Corporation in West Columbia, one of the companies across the state that has hired people through the program.
Letitia Moorer was getting government assistance for three months because she couldn't find a job. After a month-long class she took through the Department of Social Services, which included skills training and learning how to write an effective résumé, she got a job with Winnsboro Petroleum.
"I started out as a cashier in October of last year, and the end of January, I became assistant manager, so I'm very proud of that," she says.
Koller says it makes a lot more sense, not just for taxpayers but for recipients, to get people jobs instead of giving them government checks. She says the average recipient is a single mother with two children.
"That single parent will get in total DSS benefits $759 a month while they're not working, compared to earning $1,661 a month working at South Carolina's current minimum wage of $7.25," Koller says. "And here's the good news: many of our jobs pay more than minimum wage. In fact, on average, we helped folks get jobs making close to $9 an hour, and many individuals are making much more than that."
She says the agency is also working to improve its ability to find and prevent fraud. DSS maintains a statewide database called the "State Directory of New Hires". By law, employers are supposed to notify the agency of its new hires, so DSS and the Department of Employment and Workforce can make sure people aren't getting welfare or unemployment benefits and also working.
But Koller says, "Even though there's a mandate on employers to report it, there's no enforcement of it, and that makes it too sketchy in terms of really catching the fraud that's out there. So we need to find other ways."
She says the agency interviewed three companies last week that have other databases and ways for DSS to prevent fraud.
And the welfare-to-work effort will continue, with the new goal of 20,000 by the end of the year.
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