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Two Committees Approve Companion Welfare Reform Bills

On May 2, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee approved companion welfare reform bills (H.R. 4090 and H.R. 4092) along party lines. Both measures were approved by the Subcommittee on Human Resources and the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness on April 18 (see The Source, 4/19/02). Both bills would toughen the work requirements for welfare recipients by increasing the work week from 30 to 40 hours and both would mandate that states achieve a work participation rate of 70 percent by 2007.

Ways and Means Committee Action
The House Ways and Means Committee approved, 23-16, legislation (H.R. 4090) that would reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant at $16.5 billion annually from FY2003 through FY2007. The bill also would reauthorize mandatory funding for child care services and would add a new fatherhood program designed to promote and support involved, committed, and responsible fatherhood through activities such as job training and counseling.

Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) reported that the bill under consideration by the committee made several changes to the version approved by the subcommittee. The measure would create a new “super achiever” credit to the states for moving people from welfare to work. It also would include “reducing poverty” as a goal of TANF and would add $2 billion for child care services.

Prior to approving the bill, the committee accepted an amendment by Rep. Gerald Kleczka (D-WI) that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct more analyses of state single audit reports on the TANF program that would increase and strengthen oversight of outside TANF contractors. According to Rep. Kleczka, “The greater use of single audits as a program management tool would provide assurance that TANF contractors are abiding by federal financial and program regulations and are fulfilling their obligations to adequately and responsibly serve welfare recipients.”

The committee also adopted an amendment by Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) that would eliminate a section of the committee bill that would have repealed the authority for states to operate under waivers.

The committee defeated a number of Democratic amendments, including:

  • An amendment by Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) that would have allowed vocational education to be included in the allowable “direct” work activities under the bill. The amendment was defeated 16-21.
  • An amendment by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) that would have added $11.25 billion over five years for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The amendment was defeated 13-22.
  • An amendment by Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) that would have replaced the caseload reduction credit with an enhanced employment credit. The amendment was defeated 15-20.
  • An amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) that would have retained the work requirements in countable work provisions under current law. The amendment was defeated by voice vote.
  • An amendment by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) that would have lifted the five-year ban that prohibits legal immigrants from obtaining TANF benefits. The amendment was defeated 15-22.
  • An amendment by Rep. Rangel that would have allowed Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam to be eligible for contingency funds and mandatory child care funds. The amendment was defeated 16-23.
  • An amendment by Rep. Kleczka that would have prohibited the use of TANF funds for contracts with entities employing workers outside the United States to fulfill the requirements under the contract. The amendment was defeated 16-22.
  • Four amendments, considered en bloc, by Rep. Karen Thurman (D-FL) that: would have required states to provide adult-supervised living arrangements to teen parents; would have suspended time limits for teen parents who attend school and job training classes; would have established a grant program to train recipients of state TANF programs to become caseworkers in welfare programs; and would have required study of teen parents on welfare programs to determine the “best practices” for dealing with teen parents. The amendments were defeated on one roll call vote, 16-23.

Education and the Workforce Committee Action
The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved, 25-20, legislation (H.R. 4092) that would renew the work requirements under TANF as well as the programs under the CCDBG. The measure would require welfare recipients to work a 40-hour week and would provide $2.3 billion for discretionary child care funds under the CCDBG.

Committee Chair John Boehner (R-OH) said that the legislation “builds on the success of the 1996 welfare law” and “will ensure that even more welfare families will move into productive lives.”

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the committee’s Ranking Member, called the results of the 1996 welfare law “mixed.” He contended that “many welfare recipients remain desperately poor, and many still live below the poverty level.” He called the committee bill a “Washington knows best” approach with increased work requirements without providing the child care resources necessary to meet the needs of these working parents.

Prior to approving the bill, the committee approved, 25-21, an amendment by Rep. Michael Castle (D-DE) that would increase discretionary funding for the CCDBG from $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion in FY2003. The amendment also would increase the amount of money states must set aside for improving child care quality from 4 to 6 percent and would encourage states to develop partnerships with public and private entities in carrying out their programs.

The committee also approved, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) that would add “reducing poverty” as a goal of the welfare program.

Other amendments adopted by the committee include one by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) that would allow welfare recipients to attend school full-time for four months of a two-year period as opposed to three-months included in the committee bill, and an amendment by Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) that would require states to assess the needs of welfare families on an individual basis as they develop self-sufficiency plans.

Additionally, the committee approved, by voice vote, a substitute amendment that would clarify that all eligible benefit recipients may receive child care assistance, not just those individuals and families that receive TANF benefits. The substitute amendment, offered by Rep. Boehner, also would require the General Accounting Office to conduct a study on individuals and families that have successfully left welfare.

The committee defeated a number of Democratic amendments, including:

  • an amendment by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that would have barred religious organizations that provide services to welfare recipients from discriminating on the basis of religion. The amendment was defeated, 18-26;
  • an amendment by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI) that would have allowed recipients to count certain services as work if those services dealt with learning disabilities, mental health problems, illiteracy, or substance abuse. The amendment was defeated, 9-36;
  • an amendment by Rep. Mink that would have required states to refer victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to services and would have prohibited states from reducing or terminating their assistance. The amendment was defeated, 21-26; and
  • an en bloc amendment that included an amendment by Rep. Miller that would have ensured that welfare recipients do not replace existing workers and an amendment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that would have protected children’s benefits in cases where a family member’s benefits are reduced or terminated due to refusal to work without good cause.
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