THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Clinton-Gore Accomplishments Reforming Welfare
On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, fulfilling his longtime commitment to "end welfare as we know it." As the President said upon signing, "... this legislation provides an historic opportunity to end welfare as we know it and transform our broken welfare system by promoting the fundamental values of work, responsibility, and family."
TRANSFORMING THE BROKEN WELFARE SYSTEM
Overhauling the Welfare System with the Personal Responsibility Act: In 1996, the President signed a bipartisan welfare plan that is dramatically changing the nation's welfare system into one that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance. The law contains strong work requirements, performance bonuses to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs and reducing illegitimacy, state maintenance of effort requirements, comprehensive child support enforcement, and supports for families moving from welfare to work -- including increased funding for child care. State strategies are making a real difference in the success of welfare reform, specifically in job placement, child care and transportation.
Law Builds on the Administration's Welfare Reform Strategy: Even before the Personal Responsibility Act became law, many states were well on their way to changing their welfare programs to jobs programs. By granting Federal waivers, the Clinton Administration allowed 43 states -- more than all previous Administrations combined -- to require work, time-limit assistance, make work pay, improve child support enforcement, and encourage parental responsibility. The vast majority of states have chosen to continue or build on their welfare demonstration projects approved by the Clinton Administration.
Largest Decline in the Welfare Rolls in History: The President has announced that we've met -- two years ahead of schedule -- the challenge he made in last year's State of the Union to move two million more Americans off of welfare by the year 2000. The latest caseload numbers, announced May 27th, show that welfare caseloads fell by 5.2 million since President Clinton took office and 3.3 million since he signed the welfare reform law. The new figures, from March 1998, show 8.9 million people on welfare, a drop of more than 37 percent from January 1993. This historic decline occurred in response to the Administration's grants of Federal waivers to 43 states, the provisions of the new welfare reform law, and the strong economy.
MOVING PEOPLE FROM WELFARE TO WORK
Mobilizing the Business Community: At the President's urging, the Welfare to Work Partnership was launched in May 1997 to lead the national business effort to hire people from the welfare rolls. Founded with 105 participating businesses, the Partnership has grown to 5,000 businesses within one year. In 1997, these businesses hired 135,000 welfare recipients and the President today will challenge them to double their efforts to 270,000 in 1998. The Partnership provides technical assistance and support to businesses around the country, including: a toll-free number, the Partnership's Web site, a "Blueprint for Business" manual, and a new report called The Road to Retention on businesses whose retention rates for former welfare recipients are higher than the retention rates for other new hires.
Connecting Small Businesses with New Workers: The Small Business Administration is reaching out to small businesses throughout the country to help them connect with job-ready welfare recipients. In addition, SBA assists welfare recipients who wish to start their own businesses.
Mobilizing Civic, Religious and Non-profit Groups: The Vice President created the Welfare to Work Coalition to Sustain Success, a coalition of civic groups committed to helping former welfare recipients stay in the workforce and succeed. Tailoring their services to meet welfare recipients needs and the organizations' strengths, the Coalition focuses on providing mentoring and other support services. Charter members of the Coalition include: the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Baptist Joint Committee, the United Way, the YMCA, and other civic and faith-based groups.
Doing Our Fair Share with the Federal Government's Hiring Initiative: Under the Clinton Administration, the Federal workforce is the smallest it has been in thirty years. Yet, this Administration also believes that the Federal government, as the nation's largest employer, must lead by example. The President asked the Vice President to oversee the Federal government's hiring initiative in which Federal agencies have committed to directly hire at least 10,000 welfare recipients in the next four years. Already, the federal government has hired over 4,811 welfare recipients, 45 percent of its planned hires. As a part of this effort, the White House pledged, and has already hired, six welfare recipients.
$3 Billion to Help Move More People from Welfare to Work: Because of the President's leadership, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act included the total funding requested by the President for the creation of his $3 billion welfare to work fund. This program will help states and local communities move long-term welfare recipients into lasting, unsubsidized jobs. These funds can be used for job creation, job placement and job retention efforts, including wage subsidies to private employers and other critical post-employment support services. The Department of Labor provides oversight but most of the dollars will be placed, through the Private Industry Councils, in the hands of the localities who are on the front lines of the welfare reform effort. In addition, 25 percent of the funds will be awarded by the Department of Labor on a competitive basis to support innovative welfare to work projects. The President announced the first round of 49 innovative competitive grants on May 27th.
Tax Credits for Employers: The Welfare to Work Tax Credit, enacted in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, provides a credit equal to 35 percent of the first $10,000 in wages in the first year of employment, and 50 percent of the first $10,000 in wages in the second year, to encourage the hiring and retention of long term welfare recipients. This credit complements the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides a credit of up to $2,400 for the first year of wages for eight groups of job seekers. The President's FY 1999 budget extends these two important tax credits for an additional year.
Welfare to Work Housing Vouchers: In his FY 1999 budget, the President proposes $283 million for 50,000 new housing vouchers for welfare recipients who need housing assistance to get or keep a job. Families could use these housing vouchers to move closer to a new job, to reduce a long commute, or to secure more stable housing to eliminate emergencies that keep them from getting to work every day on time. These vouchers, awarded to communities on a competitive basis, will give people on welfare a new tool to make the transition to a job and succeed in the work place.
Welfare to Work Transportation: One of the biggest barriers facing people who move from welfare to work -- in cities and in rural areas -- is finding transportation to get to jobs, training programs and child care centers. Few welfare recipients own cars. Existing mass transit does not provide adequate links to many suburban jobs at all, or within a reasonable commute time. In addition, many entry level jobs require evening or weekend hours that are poorly served by existing transit routes. To help those on welfare get to their jobs, President Clinton proposed a $100 million a year welfare to work transportation plan as part of his ISTEA reauthorization bill. This competitive grant program would assist states and localities in developing flexible transportation alternatives, such as van services. Congress has recognized the importance of welfare to work transportation by authorizing up to $150 million annually in the ISTEA reauthorization bill.
PROMOTING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Enforcing Child Support -- 68% Increase in Collections: The Clinton Administration collected a record $13.4 billion in child support in l997 through tougher enforcement, an increase of $5.4 billion, or 68% since l992. Not only are collections up, but the number of families that are actually receiving child support has also increased. In l997, the number of child support cases with collections rose to 4.2 million, an increase of 48% from 2.8 million in l992. And paternity establishment, often the first crucial step in child support cases, has dramatically increased due in large part to voluntary paternity establishment provisions enacted in the first year of the Clinton Administration. In l997, the number of paternities established or acknowledged rose to 1.1 million from 512,000 in l992, an increase of 115%.
Increasing Parental Responsibility: The President's unprecedented and sustained campaign to ensure parents financially support their children is working. In addition to tougher enforcement including a strong partnership with states, President Clinton has taken executive action including: directing the Treasury Department to collect past-due child support from Federal payments including Federal income tax refunds and employee salaries, and taking steps to deny Federal loans to any delinquent parents. The President also directed the Attorney General to submit legislation that strengthens the Child Support Recovery Act to increase penalties against parents who take egregious actions to avoid paying child support. And most significantly, the welfare reform law contains tough child support measures that President Clinton has long supported including: a national new hire reporting system; streamlined paternity establishment; uniform interstate child support laws; computerized state-wide collections; and tough new penalties. These five measures are projected to increase child support collections by an additional $24 billion over the next ten years.
Breaking the Cycle of Dependency -- Preventing Teen Pregnancy: Significant components of the President's comprehensive effort to reduce teen pregnancy became law when the President signed the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act. The law requires unmarried minor parents to stay in school and live at home or in a supervised setting; encourages "second chance homes" to provide teen parents with the skills and support they need; and provides $50 million a year in new funding for state abstinence education activities. Since 1993, the Clinton Administration has supported innovative and promising teen pregnancy prevention strategies, including working with boys and young men on pregnancy prevention strategies. In 1997, the President announced the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, mandated in the welfare reform law. It reported that HHS-supported programs already reach about 30 percent or 1,410 communities in the United States. As part of this effort, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a private nonprofit organization, was formed in response to the President's 1995 State of the Union. Notably, data shows we are making progress in reducing teen pregnancy -- teen births have fallen five years in a row, by 12 percent from 1991 to 1996.
RESTORING FAIRNESS AND PROTECTING THE MOST VULNERABLE
The President made a commitment to fix several provisions in the welfare reform law that had nothing to do with moving people from welfare to work. In 1997, the President fought for and ultimately was successful in ensuring that the Balanced Budget Act protects the most vulnerable. And now, with his 1999 budget, he's continuing the fight.
Protects Immigrants Who Become Disabled and Those Currently Receiving Benefits: The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 restored $11.5 billion in SSI and Medicaid benefits for legal immigrants. The new law protects those immigrants now receiving assistance, ensuring that they will not be turned out of their apartments or nursing homes or otherwise left destitute. And for immigrants already here but not receiving benefits, the BBA does not change the rules retroactively. Immigrants in the country as of August 22, 1996 but not receiving benefits at that time who subsequently become disabled will also be fully eligible for SSI and Medicaid benefits.
Helps People Who Want to Work but Can't Find a Job: The Balanced Budget Act (BBA) also restored $1.5 billion in food stamp cuts. The welfare reform law restricted food stamps for able-bodied childless adults to only 3 out of every 36 months, unless they were working. This move ignored the fact that finding a job often takes time. The BBA provided funds for an estimated 235,000 work slots over 5 years and food stamp benefits to those who are willing to work but, through no fault of their own, have not yet found employment. In addition, the BBA allows states to exempt up to 15 percent of the food stamp recipients (70,000 individuals monthly) who would otherwise be denied benefits as a result of the "3 in 36" limit.
Food Stamps for Legal Immigrants: The President's 1999 budget proposes to restore Food Stamp benefits for vulnerable groups of legal immigrants. The President's proposals would provide Food Stamp benefits to 730,000 legal immigrants in 1999 at a cost of $2.5 billion over 5 years. Specifically, benefits would be restored for: all families with children; immigrants with disabilities and elderly immigrants age 65 and older who entered the U.S. before welfare reform was enacted, on the same basis as the SSI and Medicaid restorations in the 1997 BBA; refugees and asylees, whose eligibility would be extended from 5 to 7 years; Hmong immigrants who came to the U.S. after the Vietnam war; and certain Native Americans living along the Canadian and Mexican borders. The Administration is now pressing Congress to pass legislation known as the Agriculture Research bill, which would restore food stamps to 250,000 of these legal immigrants in 1999, including 75,000 children.
Protects Children by Keeping the Medicaid Guarantee: The BBA preserved the Federal guarantee of Medicaid coverage for the vulnerable populations who depend on it, and contains additional investments to extend coverage to uninsured children. It also ensures that 30,000 disabled children losing SSI because of the new tighter eligibility criteria keep their Medicaid coverage. The President's 1999 budget proposes to provide States the option to provide health care coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for legal immigrant children, regardless of when they entered the U.S.