Facing $1 billion deficit, Arizona sharply limits welfare

Governor Doug Ducey is weighing in on sharp cuts to Arizona residents on welfare.

The Arizona Legislature ended lifetime benefits to low-income families after just 12 months.

The Governor calls the cuts necessary to protect education and other programs.

But those who rely on the help call the cuts unfair.

Critics say taxpayers may have to foot additional costs because those who are most vulnerable may not get the assistance they need.

"What we want to do is transition people out of the social safety net into gainful employment," said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

Gov. Ducey says the move came as legislators worked to close the state's $1 billion budget deficit.

>>VIDEO: Sen. Kelli Ward on why Arizona is cutting back on welfare

The program that receives funding from the Federal Government, and provides money to families in need, saved about $4 million taxpayer dollars.

"We had a budget to balance, we balanced it in a bi-partisan way, through our reforms we have protected the developmentally disabled, we have protected seniors, and the best reform here is a job and an opportunity in a growing economy," he said.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, the average stay on the program is about 14 months, and a single parent with two kids can receive a maximum of just under $280 a month.

"We all want the people to find work, and the last time I checked the unemployment rate in Arizona was higher than the United States average. That means people looking for jobs cannot find them. So then to punish people and say we are letting you fall into crisis is a very damaging policy for the whole state," said Dana Naimark with the Children's Action Alliance.

Naimark and the Alliance lobbied against the cuts at the legislature. They point out that to be in the program the parent has to be actively looking for work. The changes are estimated to effect 1,700 families, and that includes about 2,700 children.

"This is to save $4 million in a $9 billion budget, that is ridiculous. This was not a choice anybody had to make. This is something some legislators wanted to do, and it is a bad idea," she said.