South Carolina's welfare agency says it will cut monthly payments to the state's poorest parents by 20 percent as it grapples with a $28.8 million budget deficit, a reduction that one advocate says will be "devastating" to affected families.
The move will reduce monthly checks for the average parent with two children to $216 from $270 beginning in February.
South Carolina's cuts are more harsh than those in Delaware and New Mexico as states cope with tighter federal welfare spending and recession-shrunk state budgets, observers say.
"If there had been any other way that we could have done this, we would. We have tried to cut everywhere we could. This is the last place we have," said Kathleen Hayes, the director of the state Department of Social Services.
Advocates for the poor said the 20 percent reduction will deal a blow to welfare recipients, who are required to work or be in a work-related training program a minimum of 30 hours weekly to get monthly checks.