Utica, NY (WIBX) - A proposal to put welfare recipients to work performing public service, was introduced by two candidates running for office in Oneida County. The Welfare to Work program presented by Common Council and County Executive candidates, James Zecca and Rodger Potocki, would require those receiving welfare payments, to perform public service work such as cleaning streets and vacant city owned property, filling potholes and removing graffiti from publicly owned property.

James Zecca took a chapter from history to sell the idea. "When the Great Depression hit the United States in 1923, the American economy hit rock bottom. President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal, a series of new programs designed to pick America back up on its feet and get the economy moving again," he said. He says one of those programs was the Works Progress Administration or WPA. "The WPA was responsible for building structures such as airports, seaports and bridges. It paved 651,000 miles of roads, build 78,000 bridges, 8,000 parks and one of the 8,000 parks was a project right here in Utica, the Addison Miller Pool project."

Potocki says the program would work in conjunction with the internship program he introduced as part of his Potocki Prosperity Program. He said, "The poverty rate of 15-percent, county-wide of 29-percent in the inner city of Utica and a million dollar a week Medicaid tab is all a sign of severe chronic unemployment in the area," he said. Potocki goes on to say that the Welfare to Work program and his proposal to train interns and out-of-work residents with work and life skills, will help put people back to work.

He said, "These kinds of initiative should have been taken a long time ago by people in charge, the situation we have with the chronologically unemployed and underemployed, as I said, is not tolerable." Potocki says the Welfare to Work Program, if adopted and implemented, will help reduce the county's high poverty rate and Medicaid bill. Both candidates pointed to similar work programs in other counties, including Madison County, that have have proven to be successful in reducing poverty and unemployment figures.