Posted on March 29, 2004
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today introduced an amendment to H.R. 4, the Welfare Reform Authorization bill, to create a demonstration project giving up to 10 states more flexibility in helping those on welfare move to self-sufficiency. "The 1996 Transitional Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) legislation was very important," Alexander said. "It changed the way we think about welfare from a program that fosters - dependence' to a program that serves as - temporary assistance,' restores dignity, and encourages people to be able to stand on their own two feet. "TANF has been successful. From a high of five million in 1994, welfare caseloads have dropped by more than 50 percent. But, since 2000, the national caseload has leveled off at slightly above 2 million. In more than half the states, including Tennessee, caseloads grew in the first half of 2003. And in every state, the remaining 50 percent on TANF pose the bigger challenge. My hope is that giving states more flexibility in managing each case will help with the harder circumstances of those on the rolls today." The 10 demonstration states would create plans to reach five measurable goals including:
Employment - growth in the percentage of participants employed;
Removal of barriers to stable employment - growth in drug treatment success, improvement in education level, and attainment of marketable skills;
Job Retention - growth in percentage of those who keep jobs;
Earnings - improvement in average entry-level earnings and earning growth;
Child well-being - prenatal care, lower infant mortality rates, improved immunization rates, number of children in accredited child care, and overall improvement in children's education test results.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services would approve the plans and measurable goals of these demonstration states as well as monitor each state's progress.
Co-sponsors of Alexander's amendment include Sens. George Voinovich (R-OH), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Tom Carper (D-DE).