Welfare. Whether you collect it, or you pay for it (and for EVERY
working American does one of the two), most citizens of our country are familiar
with it. Yet as every second of the day passes, more and more of my money and
yours is being allotted to this growing epidemic called welfare. The Personal
Responsibility Act, signed by the President, was a monumental change in welfare
as we know, or used to know it. The welfare system is still in need or more
strict and stringent policy reform, yet the Personal Responsibility Act was a
prodigious step in the right direction.
In the past few years, the federal governments and state governments
have tried to change and improve the welfare system. The Clinton Administration
campaigned to "end welfare as we know it." The Administration's proposal limits
AFDC benefits to two years, during which employment services would be provided
to recipients. Nearly 20 welfare reform bills have been introduced in the 103rd
Congress. Besides the above mentioned bill, three major proposals were offered
by Republican members: The GOP Leadership Welfare bill, The Real Welfare Reform
Act, and The Welfare and Teenage Pregnancy Reduction Act. Now the Republicans
have pulled together a strong and controversial bill on welfare reform. The
Personal Responsibility Act is an attempt to overhaul the welfare system by
putting limits on eligibility and reducing dependency on government. This bill
addresses the increasing problem of illegitimacy, requires welfare recipients to
work, and caps welfare spending. Current programs will be consolidated, time
limits will be placed on benefits and savings are to go to deficit reduction.
The bill's main thrust is to give states greater control over the benefits
programs, work programs, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
payments and requirements.
Under the bill, the structure for AFDC payments will drastically change.
Mothers under the age of 18 may no longer receive AFDC payments for children
born out of wedlock and mothers who are ages 18, 19, and 20 can be prohibited by
the states from receiving AFDC payments and housing benefits. Mothers must also
establish paternity to as a condition for receiving AFDC payments, except in
cases of rape and incest and if the state determines that efforts to establish
paternity would result in physical danger to the mother. The bill requires
states to establish paternity in ninety percent of their cases. States are also
encouraged to develop procedures in public hospitals and clinics to determine
paternity and establish legal procedures that help pinpoint paternity in a
reasonable time period. Also, in order to reduce the amount of time families
are on welfare, states must begin moving welfare recipients into work programs
if they have received welfare for two years. States are given the option to
drop families from receiving AFDC benefits after they have received welfare for
two years if at least one year has been spent in a work program. States must
drop families from the program after they have received a total of five years of
AFDC benefits.
The bill allows states to design their own work programs and determine
who will be required to participate. Welfare recipients must work an average of
35 hours a week or enroll in work training programs. By the year 2001, 1.5
million AFDC recipients will be required to work.
The bill grants greater flexibility to states allowing them to design
their own work programs and determine who participates in them and can choose to
opt out of the current AFDC program by converting their share of AFDC payments
into fixed annual block grants.
The bill is also designed to diminish the number to teenage pregnancies
and illegitimate births. It prohibits AFDC payments and housing benefits to
mothers under age 18 who give birth to out-of-wedlock children. The state has
the option of extending this prohibition to mothers ages 18, 19, and 20. The
savings generated from this provision to deny AFDC to minor mothers is returned
to the states in the form of block grants to provide services to help these
young mothers who illegitimate children. The state will use the funds for
programs to reduce out of wedlock pregnancies, to promote adoption, to establish
and operate orphanages, to establish and operate residential group homes for
unwed mothers, or for any purpose the state deems appropriate. None of the
funds may be used for abortion services or abortion counseling.
The bill also includes a number of other provisions to reduce
illegitimacy. While AFDC is prohibited to mothers ages 17 and younger who have
children out of wedlock, mothers age 18 who give birth to illegitimate children