Great Business Ideas: Hire a Welfare Recipient

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Hire a Welfare Recipient

You can complain about welfare recipients spending your tax dollars, or you can do something about it by offering an entry-level job to one person on the public dole. With training programs and sup- port in the form of public transportation vouchers or help with childcare, thousands of welfare recipients are joining the working class—some for the first time in their lives. You might think your business is too small to give someone on welfare a chance, but in today’s tight job market, you can find untapped talent—as well as do a good deed.

A few years ago, my father hired two brothers to work for his small nail products company. One brother was a recovering drug addict; the other was on and off welfare. I admit that when I heard what he had done, I was surprised that he would take that kind of a risk. But they turned out to be tremendously loyal and competent workers.

Sure, they had their share of personal problems, but most days they showed up and worked hard, mixing flammable chemicals and loading fifty-five-gallon drums on trucks. My dad became sort of a surrogate father to them. By treating them with respect and setting high standards, he helped them get their lives together.

There are a variety of state, local, and federal programs available to help business owners hire welfare recipients. On the national level, the Welfare to Work Partnership, based in Washington, D.C., provides a variety of resources.

More than 20,000 big and small companies have joined the Partnership, an independent, nonpartisan group of businesses pledging to hire welfare recipients without displacing other workers.

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Businesses across America are stepping up to the plate to hire people from public assistance, said former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson. More than 350 companies have signed the pledge in Wisconsin alone. Thompson, a Bush cabinet member, has been a pioneer in welfare reform. By eliminating cash payments to welfare recipients a few years ago, he slashed Wisconsin’s welfare rolls by 70 percent.

Before his time, welfare was so easy to qualify for in Wisconsin, Thompson said bus companies were selling discount tickets so people from Chicago could sign up for benefits in Wisconsin.

Today, Wisconsin’s welfare recipients must take part in some sort of training program or work in a sheltered work- shop to receive any public assistance. The state also provides money to business owners who hire former welfare recipients.

Dozens of governors have joined the Partnership’s efforts to reduce the welfare rolls. “Our success in implementing comprehensive welfare reform throughout the nation will be largely dependent on our ability to forge powerful ties between the public sector and employers,” said Gov. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat.

The Partnership’s bipartisan approach has attracted sup- port from America’s blue-chip companies, including United Airlines, Monsanto, Marriott International, The Limited, Time Warner, Burger King Corp., Sprint, and United Parcel Service of America.