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<p>The House of Representatives is considering legislation today to “reauthorize,” or extend, the welfare reform bill first passed as part of the Armey-Gingrich Contract with America. It’s a real milestone, and CSE is urging all Members of Congress to support this legislation.</p>
<p>The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 replaced the failed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a new program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). </p>
<p>Passage of TANF was the single most important public-policy accomplishment in the United States government over the past decade. TANF honors people's ability to better themselves, moving from dependency to the dignity of work. </p>
<p>We’ve come along way on welfare, and it’s important to protect our policy gains. </p>
<p>Liberal groups passionately opposed welfare reform and predicted that TANF would lead to increases in poverty. In fact, some Clinton Administration welfare administrators actually resigned in protest when Clinton signed TANF into law. The liberals were dead wrong: welfare reform is a success. Since passage of TANF, Heritage Foundation researchers found:
• <b>Poverty Dropped Substantially.</b> According to the Census Bureau, 3.5 million fewer people live in poverty today than in 1995.
• <b>Fewer Children in Poverty.</b> Some 2.9 million fewer children live in poverty today than in 1995, and the poverty rate for black children has fallen to the lowest point in U.S. history. The poverty rate of children living with single mothers is also at the lowest point in U.S. history.
• <b>Reduced Interest in Welfare.</b> The AFDC/TANF caseload has been more than cut in half.
• <b>Reduced Illegitimacy.</b> Since the 1960s, the share of births outside of marriage grew explosively at nearly one percentage point per year. However, since welfare reform, the out-of-wedlock birth growth rate has remained almost flat. </p>
<p>While economic growth during the 1990s helped boost these trends, policy changes were overwhelming the most important factor. For example, a new study by former Congressional Budget Office Director June O'Neill finds that welfare reform, not the economy, is responsible for 75 percent of the drop in welfare caseload.</p>
<p><b>Welfare in the 108th Congress</b>
In 1996, Congress also passed a landmark Farm Bill to restructured agriculture subsidies. Last year, though, the 107th Congress undid those reforms, instead providing billions in new payments to farmers. </p>
<p>Like the Farm Bill, TANF is up for reauthorization this year. The 108th Congress must guard against backsliding efforts to weaken the groundbreaking and successful welfare reforms embodied in TANF. The problem is the Senate, where some liberals want to continue their well-meaning, but misguided effort to solve problems by simply giving out cash and creating government dependency.</p>
<p>Fortunately, TANF reauthorization can also be an opportunity help even more families find jobs, move away from welfare and regain their dignity and self-esteem. That’s why CSE supports the following principles for TANF reauthorization:</p>
<p>• <b>Preserve Reform.</b> First and foremost, protect the positive reforms of the 1996 bill.
• <b>Don’t Bail Out States.</b> States that have pursued reckless spending policies over the past decade are now experiencing budget shortfalls. Don’t use TANF reauthorization to bail out irresponsible state governments.
• <b>Increase Minimum Work Requirements for State Programs.</b> Current law requires that at least 50 percent of welfare recipients participate in work or related activities such as job training. Reform should increase that requirement to 70 percent, increasing incrementally by 5 percent a year.
• <b>Work a 40 Hour Week.</b> Require individual recipients to work 40 hours per week and permit 16 hours of that to be spent on schooling or job training programs.
• <b>Flexibility on Childcare.</b> Give states maximum flexibility on how to spend federal childcare dollars.</p>
<p>These elements are all a part of the House legislation. Citizens for a Sound Economy is cheering passage of the bill, and will be fighting to preserve welfare reform when the Senate takes up the bill later this year.