Mayor Article

Welfare-to-Work Update

By Josie Hathway

As the Administration engages in final negotiations on the budget, mayors are very concerned about the reauthorization of the Welfare-to-Work (WTW) program and the enactment of the WTW eligibility changes that have excluded a large number of those needing assistance. There has been no action on the reauthorization bill in Congress which leaves the budget end game as the only vehicle for reauthorization. The Administration has voiced commitment to stand by their FY 2000 budget request of $1 billion over two years for WTW which provides targeted resources to assist those with the greatest barriers to employment to move from welfare to work. Mayors know that the job of welfare reform is far from complete and have not been able to count on their state partners to reinvest welfare savings into addressing concentrated welfare caseloads in cities. Without re-authorization, the WTW program is over.

Though there is no support in Congress for re-authorization, there is bi-partisan agreement on the need for WTW eligibility changes. The current WTW requirements have excluded a large segment of welfare recipients that have serious barriers to employment yet are not eligible because they have a high school diploma. This eligibility change is included in a new bill, H.R. 3073, The Fathers Count Act of 1999, introduced by Representative Nancy L. Johnson (CT) and Representative Benjamin Cardin (MD), which passed in the House Ways and Means Committee last week. It is expected to go to the floor this week. This bill provides grants for projects designed to promote responsible fatherhood and marriage. The vehicle in the Senate may be foster care legislation. If this legislation does not pass in Congress then there are plans to separate the WTW eligibility requirements and pass them separately.

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