Growing unemployment forces more onto LA County welfare rolls

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is seeking to reform its largest welfare program amid a dramatic increase in the number of people who seek help.

The county’s General Relief program is welfare of last resort. It’s a monthly cash payment of $221 to L.A.’s most down and out. As the unemployment rate’s skyrocketed in the last year-and-a-half, the number of recipients has jumped by 25,000, to more than 80,000 adults.

That pressure on county resources – the program now costs L.A. more than $200 million a year – prompted proposals for restructuring. Among the recommendations: do a better job helping people on General Relief find work or claim federal disability payments. The county also wants to increase subsidized housing. More than half the people on general relief are homeless.

County number crunchers say the changes would cost about $7 million, and would save about $21 million. Some L.A. County supervisors questioned the numbers. They want another report in two weeks.