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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                     (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
For Immediate Release                                     April 10, 1999
                             TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Today I want to talk to you about our continuing efforts to break the cycle of dependency and make responsibility and work a way of life for all Americans.

Work is more than just a weekly paycheck. It is at heart, our way of life. Work lends purpose and dignity to our lives, instills in our children the basic values that built our nation. But for too long, too many Americans were trapped in a broken welfare system that exiled generation after generation from the mainstream of American life by cutting them off from the world of work.

I took office determined to change that, from giving states the flexibility they needed to make welfare a second chance, not a way of life; to passing the historic bipartisan welfare reform bill that ended welfare as we knew it; to launching the Welfare to Work partnership to create private sector jobs for welfare systems. We have made remarkable progress.

Today, I am pleased to announce that since 1993 we cut the welfare rolls nearly in half by a record 6.5 million people. Thanks to our strong economy and strong leadership in the states and the private sector, the number of Americans who are beginning to replace welfare checks with paychecks has tripled since 1992. I'm proud to announce that we in the national government are doing our part to help, surpassing the goal we set for ourselves by hiring almost 12,000 welfare recipients in just two years.

You can see the evidence of our progress in communities across our country, in hard-pressed neighborhoods where bus drivers who used to pass by empty stations now report their buses are filled with people on their way to work. You can see it on inner-city streets where a new storefront, tax preparing businesses, are helping people file their income tax returns -- some for the very first time in their lives. April 15th may not be the most favorite day for Americans, but for these people it's a cause for celebration.

Reforming our broken welfare system was the right thing to do. Now we must finish the job. Today, I am pleased to unveil the final rules that will carry out the Welfare Reform Bill I signed into law in 1996. This major new regulation does two important things. First, it enforces strict state work requirements and holds states accountable for moving people from the welfare rolls to the work place. Second, the new regulation makes it easier for states to use their welfare block grant to pay for child care, for transportation, for job retention services, to help people who have left welfare stay off the rolls and help families from going on welfare in the first place.

This regulation says loud and clear people ought to get paychecks, not welfare checks. But to finish the job on welfare reform, we must press on in our efforts to restore responsibility and make work a way of life again for all Americans. Now, in this time of great prosperity, with our economy booming and our confidence high, we can't afford to leave anyone behind.

One of the biggest obstacles facing all working families is finding child care they can afford and trust. I'm pleased that the Senate recently approved with bipartisan support significant new funding to help low income families pay for child care. I hope Congress takes this critical step to give America's working families the support they need to thrive. Frankly, I hope they will also pass the rest of my child care proposal to give tax credits and other support to working families. That will help more people move from welfare to work and stay off welfare.

Finally, we can't finish the job of welfare reform without doing more to help people who have the hardest time moving from welfare to work -- those who live in the poorest neighborhoods and have the poorest job skills. That's why I call on Congress to pass my plan to extend the Labor Department's Welfare to Work program and to fully fund my proposal to provide transportation grants and housing vouchers that will help more Americans leave welfare behind by getting from where they are to where the jobs are.

With these steps, we can make the legacy of welfare dependency a memory of the 20th century and build a community of work and responsibility in the 21st century.

Thanks for listening.