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...