Reforming Welfare by Promoting Work and Responsibility
On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, fulfilling his longtime commitment to Ďend welfare as we know it.í As the President said upon signing, "... this legislation provides an historic opportunity to end welfare as we know it and transform our broken welfare system by promoting the fundamental values of work, responsibility, and family."
TRANSFORMING THE BROKEN WELFARE SYSTEM
- Overhauling the Welfare System with the Personal Responsibility Act: In 1996, the President signed the landmark bipartisan welfare reform law that has dramatically changed the nationís welfare system into one that requires work in exchange for time-limited assistance. The law contains strong work requirements, performance bonuses to reward states for moving welfare recipients into jobs and reducing illegitimacy, state maintenance of effort requirements, comprehensive child support enforcement, and supports for families moving from welfare to work -- including increased funding for child care. State strategies are making a real difference in the success of welfare reform, specifically in job placement, child care and transportation. In April 1999, the President unveiled landmark regulations covering Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) that promote work and help those who have left the rolls to succeed in the workforce and stay off welfare. In May 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services released guidance on how states and local governments can use welfare block grant funds to help families move from welfare to work.
- Law Builds on the Administrationís Welfare Reform Strategy: Even before the Personal Responsibility Act became law, many states were well on their way to changing their welfare programs to jobs programs. By granting federal waivers, the Clinton Administration allowed 43 states -- more than all previous Administrations combined -- to require work, time-limit assistance, make work pay, improve child support enforcement, or encourage parental responsibility. The vast majority of states have chosen to build on their welfare demonstration projects approved by the Administration.
- Empowering Tribes: The 1996 welfare reform law provides Tribes with the option to receive direct federal funding to independently design, administer, and operate the TANF program, giving Tribes an unprecedented opportunity to tailor benefits and services that promote self-sufficiency to the unique needs of each Tribe. Currently 30 tribal plans have been approved, covering 158 tribes and Alaska native villages. This translates to over 15,000 tribal families, or roughly a quarter of all Native American families in the country receiving TANF. Other Native American families are served through state TANF programs. In February 2000, HHS published the final regulation governing key provisions of the Tribal TANF program. The new regulation provides tribes with flexibility to consider such factors as economic conditions and resources available to the Tribe in determining work requirements, and provides for a process of negotiation with HHS in establishing time limits on assistance. With the Presidentís leadership, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 included $3 billion in Welfare-to-Work grants to move long-term welfare recipients and low-income noncustodial fathers into jobs, including $30 million for grants to tribes.
MOVING PEOPLE FROM WELFARE TO WORK:
Welfare Rolls Decline as More Recipients go to Work
- Caseloads Have Fallen to Historic New Lows. In December 2000, the President released data (through June 2000) showing that since January 1993, the welfare rolls have fallen by 8.3 million, or nearly 60 percent, from 14.1 million to 5.8 million Ė resulting in the fewest number of people on welfare since 1968 (32 years ago). The percent of Americans on welfare is now at 2.1 percent, the lowest level since 1963 (37 years ago). In August 1999, the Council of Economic Advisers reported that the single most important factor contributing to this historic decline is the implementation of welfare reform. Of the caseload reduction from 1996 to 1998, approximately one-third is due to federal and state policy changes resulting from welfare reform and about 10 percent is due to the strong economy.
- Bonuses for Welfare to Work Success. In December 2000, the President announced the second annual high performance bonuses, rewarding 27 states and the District of Columbia for superior results in moving people from welfare to work. The $200 million in bonuses, which the President fought hard to authorize in the 1996 welfare reform legislation, went to the top ten states with the best records and greatest improvement in moving parents on welfare into jobs and promoting their success in the workforce. The states that ranked the highest in each category were Idaho (job placement), Arizona (job success, measured by job retention and earnings), Arkansas (biggest improvement in job placement) and Wisconsin (biggest improvement in job success, measured by job retention and earnings).
- Rewarding States that Help Working Families: The Clinton Administration put in place new incentives for states to help working families succeed and encourage the formation of two parent families, through regulations to award future high performance bonuses. The final regulation, published by the Department of Health and Human Services on August 30, 2000, retains the current work measures, and adds measures for participation in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); participation in the Food Stamp program; receipt of child care subsidies by eligible families; and family formation and stability. These new measures will ensure that welfare reform will continue to move millions of families from dependence to independence, by encouraging work, supporting working families to help them succeed and stay off welfare, and increasing the number of children living with two married parents. Beginning in FY 2002, a total of $140 million in bonus funds is available for the work measures, with $60 million available for the work supports and family formation measures.
. At the Presidentís insistence, the 1996 welfare reform legislation included both rewards and penalties to encourage states to place people in jobs. According to reports filed by the 48 states and the District of Columbia competing for the high performance bonus, 1.2 million welfare recipients nationwide went to work in just the one year period between October 1998 and September 1999. Retention rates were also promising: 78 percent of those who got jobs were still working three months later. States also reported an average earnings increase of 31 percent for former welfare recipients, from $2,027 in the first quarter of employment to $2,647 in the third quarter. The first three years of work data since welfare reform also show that all states subject to the work participation requirements met the lawís required overall work activity levels. Nationally, 38 percent of all welfare recipients were working or in work-related activities in 1999. The data also show that nationwide, the percentage of welfare recipients working has increased to nearly five times the level it was when the President took office, rising from 7 percent in 1992 to an all-time high of 33 percent in 1999. The vast majority of working recipients are in paid employment, with the remainder involved in community service or subsidized employment.
- Millions on Welfare are Going to Work
- Independent Studies Confirm Record Numbers of People are Moving from Welfare to Work. Numerous independent studies also confirm that more people are moving from welfare to work. A national survey released by the Urban Institute found 69 percent of recipients had left welfare for work, and 18 percent had left because they had increased income, no longer needed welfare or had a change in family situation. A 1999 General Accounting Office report found that between 63 and 87 percent of adults have worked since leaving the welfare rolls Ė results similar to state studies funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. Moreover, recent evaluations ranging from Minnesota to Los Angeles to Connecticut confirm that well-designed welfare reform initiatives significantly increase the employment of welfare recipients. The Minnesota results also show that welfare reform can increase marriage rates and marital stability among low-income families. At the same time, the Census Bureauís Current Population Survey shows that between 1992 and 2000, the employment rate of previous year welfare recipients nearly doubled.
: At the Presidentís urging, The Welfare to Work Partnership was launched in May 1997 to lead the national business effort to hire people from the welfare rolls. The Partnership began with five founding companies, and, has now grown to more than 20,000 businesses of all sizes and industries. Since 1997, these businesses have hired an estimated 1.1 million welfare recipients, surpassing the challenge the President set in May of 1998. The Partnership provides technical assistance and support to businesses around the country, including: its toll-free number 1-888-USA-JOB1, a web site, a quarterly newsletter, and a number of resource guides for businesses. In August 2000, the Partnership released a report to the President, entitled "The Bottom Line for Better Lives," documenting the successes that their business partners have had in hiring from the welfare rolls, including higher retention rates for former welfare recipients than for other new hires, and highlighting strategies they used to achieve this success.
- Mobilizing the Business Community
: The Small Business Administration is addressing the unique and vital role of small businesses who employ over one-half of the private workforce, by helping small businesses throughout the country connect with job training organizations and job-ready welfare recipients. In addition, SBA provides training and assistance to welfare recipients who wish to start their own businesses. SBA provides assistance to businesses through its 1-800-U-ASK-SBA number, as well through its network of small business development and women's business centers, one-stop capital shops, Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) chapters, district offices, and its website.
- Connecting Small Businesses with New Workers and Creating New Entrepreneurs
: In May 1997, Vice President Gore created the Welfare-to-Work Coalition to Sustain Success, a coalition of national civic, service, and faith-based groups committed to helping former welfare recipients succeed in the workforce. Working in partnership with public agencies and employers, Coalition members provide mentoring, job training, child care, transportation, and other support to help these new workers with the transition to self sufficiency. Charter members of the Coalition include: Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Baptist Joint Committee, Goodwill, Salvation Army, the United Way of America, Womenís Missionary Union, the YMCA, the YWCA, and other civic and faith-based groups.
- Mobilizing Civic, Religious and Non-profit Groups
: Under the Clinton/Gore Administration, the federal workforce is the smallest it has been in forty years. Yet, this Administration also believes that the federal government, as the nationís largest employer, must lead by example. In March 1997, the President challenged federal agencies to directly hire at least 10,000 welfare recipients in the next four years. In August 1999, Vice President Gore released the second annual report on this initiative and announced that the federal government had hired over 14,000 welfare recipients, exceeding the goal nearly two years ahead of schedule. To date, under the Vice Presidentís leadership, federal agencies have hired nearly 50,000 welfare recipients, or five times the original four-year goal. As a part of this effort, the White House pledged to hire six welfare recipients and has already exceeded this goal.
- Doing Our Fair Share with the Federal Governmentís Hiring Initiative
HELPING FAMILIES MOVE FROM WELFARE TO WORK AND SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES
- Welfare-to-Work Grants: Because of the Presidentís leadership, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act included $3 billion in FY 1998 and FY 1999 for Welfare-to-Work grants to help states and local communities move long-term welfare recipients and certain non-custodial parents, into lasting, unsubsidized jobs. Funds can be used for job creation, job placement and job retention efforts, including wage subsidies to private employers and other critical post-employment support services. The Department of Labor provides oversight, but most of the dollars are placed through local business-led boards, in the hands of the localities who are on the front lines of the welfare reform effort. Federally-recognized tribes also receive up to $30 million of the Welfare-to-Work funds. In addition, 25 percent of the funds are awarded by the Department of Labor on a competitive basis. For FY 1998 and 1999, the Clinton-Gore Administration awarded 190 competitive grants that support innovative local strategies to help noncustodial parents and individuals with limited English proficiency, disabilities, substance abuse problems, or a history of domestic violence get and keep employment.
The Department of Labor also joined forces with the Department of Commerce to train welfare recipients as enumerators in the Year 2000 Census. In September 1999, Goodwill Industries received $20 million in Welfare-to-Work competitive grant funds to move up to 10,000 welfare recipients into jobs, while helping the 2000 Census get a more accurate count of individuals in high poverty areas around the country.
To help more long-term welfare recipients and low-income fathers go to work and support their families, the Administrationís FY 2001 budget proposed, and Congress approved, giving state, local, tribal, and community- and faith-based grantees an additional two years to spend Welfare-to-Work funds, ensuring that existing resources continue to help those most in need. This will give grantees an opportunity to fully implement the Welfare-to-Work initiative, as well as the program eligibility improvements enacted last year with the Administrationís support.
- New Initiatives to Collect more Child Support: Since the President took office, child support collections have doubled from $8 billion in 1992 to nearly $16 billion in 1999. Today, parents who owe child support have their wages garnished, their bank accounts seized, their federal loans denied, and their tax refunds withheld. Not only are collections up, but the number of families that are actually receiving child support has also increased. The number of child support cases with collections more than doubled during the Clinton Administration, from 2.8 million in 1992 to 6.1 million in 1999. A new collection system, proposed by the President in 1994 and enacted as part of the 1996 welfare reform law, has already located over 3.5 million delinquent parents. Over $1.3 billion was collected from federal income tax refunds for tax year 1998, double the amount since 1992. In addition, a new program established in 1999 that matches records of parents who owe child support with multi-state financial institutions, has already identified nearly 900,000 delinquent parents with accounts valued at $3 billion. In June 1998, the President signed the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act, enacting tougher penalties for parents who repeatedly fail to support children living in another state or who flee across state lines. The number of fathers taking responsibility for their children by establishing paternity rose to a record 1.5 million in 1999, triple the 1992 figure of 516,000. For FY 2001, the Clinton-Gore Administration proposed several new initiatives to strengthen enforcement to ensure that noncustodial parents who can afford to pay child support do, and ensure that more child support goes directly to families.
- Helping Low-Income Fathers Work and Support their Families: The Welfare-to-Work program, created with the Presidentís leadership in 1997, provided a major new funding source to help low-income noncustodial parents work and support their children. Since 1997, states and communities have invested over $350 million in Welfare-to-Work funds for noncustodial parents. The Presidentís FY 2001 budget proposal also included $255 million for the first year of a new Fathers Work/Families Win initiative to promote responsible fatherhood and support working families. The Clinton-Gore Administration also worked closely with Congress to seek enactment of the Child Support Distribution Act of 2000, which included many elements of the Presidentís proposals for child support reforms and responsible fatherhood initiatives; unfortunately, Congress failed to pass this legislation, despite strong bi-partisan support.
- Tax Credits for Employers: The Welfare-to-Work and Work Opportunity Tax Credits encourage more employers to hire welfare recipients and other disadvantaged individuals. The Welfare-to-Work Tax Credit, enacted in the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, offers a credit equal to 35 percent of the first $10,000 in wages in the first year of employment, and 50 percent of the first $10,000 in wages in the second year Ė for a total credit of up to $8,500. This credit complements the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which offers a credit of up to $2,400 for the first year of wages for eight groups of job seekers. From 1997 to 2000, employers were eligible to claim these tax credits for over 1.4 million newly employed welfare recipients and other disadvantaged individuals. Both credits are currently available through December 2001.
- Housing Vouchers for Hard-Pressed Working Families: With the Administration's leadership, the FY 2001 budget includes $453 million for new vouchers that subsidize the rents of low-income Americans. These vouchers will expand the supply of affordable housing for the 5.4 million very-low-income families who pay more than half their incomes for housing or live in severely inadequate units, including a growing number of families working full time. Vouchers often enable families to move closer to job opportunities. This budget builds on the 110,000 new vouchers secured through the Presidentís leadership in the past two years.
In 1999, the President proposed and Congress approved $283 million for 50,000 new welfare-to-work housing vouchers for welfare recipients who need housing assistance to get or keep a job. Nearly all of these vouchers were awarded on a competitive basis to 35 states and two tribes that created cooperative efforts among their housing, welfare and employment agencies. The FY 2000 budget provided $347 million for 60,000 new housing vouchers for hard-pressed working families.
: Transportation to work is a barrier for many low-income families. Existing public transit often doesnít link to suburban job opportunities, cover evening and weekend hours, or serve many rural communities. The Administration proposed a package of initiatives to help low-income families get to work by improving public transit solutions and making it easier for families to own a car without losing other critical supports. Working with Congress, the Administration:
- Helping Low-Income Working Families Get to Work
- Made it easier for working families to own vehicles and receive food stamps. Some families need a car to get to work; however, owning a car can often be the one item that makes a household ineligible for food stamps. Current law limits food stamp eligibility to most families owning a car worth less than $4,650. This limit has increased only three percent since it was set in 1977, while the cost of cars has nearly tripled. Congress approved an important reform proposed by the Administration to allow 245,000 people to own a reliable vehicle and still be eligible to receive food stamps by allowing states to conform their food stamp vehicle policy with a more generous TANF vehicle policy.
with $100 million in guaranteed funding to expand grants to communities to develop innovative transportation solutions that help more low-income workers and welfare recipients get to work. Regrettably, Congress rejected the Administrationís proposal to allow tribes to apply directly to the Federal Transit Administration for these grants. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century authorized $750 million over five years for the Presidentís Job Access initiative and reverse commute grants. In May 1999, Vice President Gore awarded $71 million of these funds to 179 communities in 42 states around the country. The FY 2000 budget included $75 million for this program, and in October 2000, the President awarded $73 million to 216 communities in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
- Increased Access to Jobs transportation funding
The Administration also proposed allowing working families to use Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to save for a car that will allow them to get or keep a job. Unfortunately, Congress failed to enact this change. However, the Department of Labor clarified that Welfare-to-Work block grant funds may be used for IDAs that will help working families purchase a car.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF DEPENDENCY
Preventing Teen Pregnancy: Significant components of the Presidentís comprehensive effort to reduce teen pregnancy became law when the President signed the 1996 welfare reform law. The law requires unmarried minor parents to stay in school and live at home or in a supervised setting; encourages "second chance homes" to provide teen parents with the skills and support they need; and, provides $50 million a year in new funding for state abstinence education activities. Since 1993, the Administration has supported innovative and promising teen pregnancy prevention strategies, including working with boys and young men on pregnancy prevention. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a private nonprofit organization, was formed in response to the Presidentís 1995 State of the Union. In 1997, the President announced the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. HHSí third annual report on this Strategy reported that HHS-supported programs reach at least 35 percent or 1,677 communities in the United States. In April 1999, the Vice President announced new data showing that we continue to make real progress in encouraging more young people to delay parenthood and led a roundtable discussion highlighting promising local teen pregnancy prevention strategies. In August 2000, the President highlighted new data showing that teen birth rates have declined nationwide by 20 percent from 1991 to 1999, and are now at the lowest level on record since tracking began 60 years ago. These improvements are seen among younger and older teens, married and unmarried teens, all states and all ethnic and racial groups. In addition, teen pregnancy rates are at the lowest rate since we first began collecting these data in 1976. To build on this progress in breaking the cycle of dependency, the Administrationís FY 2001 budget proposed $25 million to support adult-supervised, supportive living arrangements, often called second chance homes, for unmarried teen parents and their children who cannot live with their parents other relatives.
Reducing Out-of-Wedlock Births: In September 2000, Secretary Shalala awarded bonuses of $20 million to each of four states (Alabama, Arizona, Illinois and Michigan) and the District of Columbia for achieving the nationís largest decreases in out-of-wedlock births between 1995 and 1998. These were the second set of bonuses awarded under the welfare reform law which provided $100 million annually for up to five states with the largest reduction in the proportion of births out-of-wedlock that also show a decrease in their abortion rate. Nationwide, the 1999 birthrate for unmarried women is 6 percent lower than its high in 1994, and 3 percent lower than in 1992.
SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES
- Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit: Expansions in the EITC included in the Presidentís 1993 Economic Plan are making work pay for 15 million working families, including former welfare recipients. In 1999, the EITC lifted 4.1 million Americans out of poverty -- nearly double the number in 1993. A study conducted by the Council of Economic Advisers also suggests that the increase in labor force participation among single mothers who received welfare is strongly linked to the EITC expansion. The Presidentís FY 2001 budget proposed a nearly $24 billion plan to expand the EITC, providing as much as $1,200 in additional tax relief to an estimated 6.8 million hard-pressed working families.
Under this Administration, federal funding for child care has more than doubled, helping parents pay for the care of about 1.8 million children in 1999. The 1996 welfare reform law increased child care funding by $4 billion over six years to provide child care assistance to families moving from welfare to work and other low-income families. In FY 2001, President Clinton achieved a comprehensive child care initiative to address the struggles our nationís working parents face in finding child care they can afford, trust and rely on. These achievements will help more families afford child care and will make Head Start accessible to a record number of new families, while also providing funding to improve child care quality.
- Improving Access to Affordable and Quality Child Care:
- Helping Low-Income Families Afford Child Care. President fought for and won an $817 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, to $2 billion, to help working families struggling to afford child care. The increase will enable the program to provide child care subsidies for nearly 150,000 more children in 2001, an increase of nearly 1 million since 1997. Today, millions of families eligible for child care assistance do not receive any help; in 1999, only about 12 percent of the 15 million low-income children eligible for assistance under federal law received subsidies.
President Clinton won $6.3 billion in funding for Head StartĖĖa $1 billion increase over last year and the largest funding request ever proposed or received for the program. It will provide access to Head Startís early, continuous and comprehensive child development and family support services for approximately 936,000 children in 2001.
- Providing More Children Access to Head Start than Ever Before.
President Clinton called on Congress to include an Early Learning Fund in the FY 2001 budget to help improve child care quality and early childhood education for children under five years old. The final budget included $20 million to allow states to help communities foster cognitive development, improve child care quality and promote readiness for school.
- Promoting Early Learning by Improving the Quality of Child Care.
- Providing Health Care to Low-Income Working Families. The President has fought to maintain the Medicaid program for working families Ė in fact, he vetoed two welfare reform bills because they would have block granted Medicaid and ended its guarantee to provide a health safety net. In addition, the President has successfully increased low-income familiesí access to health care. Under the Clinton-Gore Administration, states have expanded Medicaid coverage to working families who cannot afford health insurance, allowing Medicaid to be a freestanding health insurance program for low-income families. With bipartisan support from the Congress, the President created the State Childrenís Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) in 1997, allocating $24 billion dollars over five years to extend health care coverage to uninsured children through state-designed programs. As of this year, SCHIP enrollment is nearly 2.5 million, halfway towards the goal of 5 million. In August 1998, the President eliminated a vestige of the old welfare system by allowing all states to provide Medicaid coverage to more than 130,000 working, two-parent families who meet state income eligibility requirements, eliminating disincentives to marriage and work. In this yearís budget, the President establishes new health care options that extend Medicaid coverage for persons leaving welfare for work and permit states to enroll uninsured children at schools, homeless shelters and other sites.
The President and Vice President have made significant progress in expanding access to affordable health care for working Americans, resulting in the first increase in the number of insured Americans in 12 years. They strongly believe that there is still much work that can and should be done, such as the Clinton-Goreís Administrationís $110 billion initiative to expand coverage to at least 5 million uninsured Americans and expand access to millions more. Among others, it provides a new, affordable health insurance option for families called "FamilyCare," which builds on SCHIP to provide higher Federal matching payments to parents of children eligible for or enrolled in Medicaid or SCHIP; accelerates enrollment of uninsured children eligible for Medicaid and SCHIP; expands state options for people ages 19 and 20 and legal immigrants; and helps small businesses afford insurance.
- Ensuring that Eligible Families get Food Stamps and Medicaid: Medicaid and Food Stamps are essential supports for working families. As these parents leave welfare for work, continued access to health insurance and nutritional assistance is a critical piece in making the transition to self-sufficiency. The Administration has taken a number of actions to ensure that states comply with the law, reach out to low-income working families who may be eligible for Food Stamps and Medicaid, provide guidance to states on what their responsibilities are and how to improve practices, and use bonuses and sanctions to hold states accountable. As parents leave welfare for work, it is important for them to know that health insurance and nutritional assistance benefits are still available. Itís also important that states reach out to low-income working families who may be eligible for these programs since Food Stamps and Medicaid could keep them off of welfare in the first place.
- The FY 2001 budget included $10 million for USDA to enhance nutrition security for low-income Americans through a multi-faceted education and outreach campaign. Congress also approved an important reform proposed by the Administration to allow 245,000 people to own reliable car and still be eligible for food stamp assistance. Another change also helps over 2 million people put food on the table by ensuring that the food stamp program more accurately recognizes high housing costs faced by many low-income working families.
- In November 2000, the President announced a new Food Stamp Program regulation that will allow states to: provide transitional benefits to families leaving welfare; make it easier for families receiving food stamps to own a reliable car to get to work; simplify the application process and reporting requirements so it is less time consuming for working families; and implement various eligibility changes for legal immigrants.
- In April 2000, HHS sent guidance to states asking them to review their computer systems and eligibility processes, review their own records to be sure that no one who was entitled to keep Medicaid after leaving cash assistance lost out, and reinstate anyone who was improperly terminated from Medicaid.
- HCFA also released guidance in January 2000 advising states of the continued availability of federal funds set aside in the 1996 welfare law to help states cover the costs of adapting their Medicaid policies and systems to welfare reform changes. At the end of last year, the Administration worked successfully with Congress to extend the life of this fund; most states have a considerable amount of funds to use for these purposes.
- In December 1999, the President unveiled $200 million a year in new incentives for states that succeed in moving people from welfare to work, enrolling children and families in Medicaid, Childrenís Health Insurance Program and Food Stamps, and encouraging family formation.
- In July 1999, the President took executive actions to help ensure working families who need Food Stamps have access, including: a public education campaign with informational materials and an enhanced toll-free information line, guidance making it easier for working families to own a car and still receive food stamps, and regulations making it easier for states to serve working families.
- In March 1999, all state Medicaid and TANF administrators received guidance on how states can improve their Medicaid and welfare systems, and a June 1999 letter explaining actions to ensure that all those eligible for Medicaid receive it. The Administration also launched a 50-state review process to make sure that all those who should receive Medicaid do.
- In January 1999, USDA sent states a notice outlining the lawís requirements, including that states should ensure that applicants are fully aware of their right to file an application for Food Stamps when applying for cash assistance and should not automatically terminate Food Stamp benefits as people move to work.
- Helping to Invest for the Future: In 1992, the President proposed to establish Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to empower low-income families to save for a first home, post-secondary education, or to start a new business. The 1996 welfare reform law authorized the use of welfare block grants to create IDAs. And in 1998, the President signed legislation creating a five-year $125 million demonstration program. Households that are either eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and have a net worth below $10,000 are eligible to participate in the demonstration. In FY 1999, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $10 million to 40 grantees that will establish over 10,000 savings accounts for low-income workers. The FY 2001 budget agreement provides $25 million for IDAs in FY 2001 to expand this demonstration and amendments that make it easier for community-based organizations and individuals to participate in the program. The Administration also provided clarification that Welfare-to-Work block grant funds may be used by low-income working families to save for a car that will allow them to get or keep a job.
PROMOTING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
The Clinton-Gore Administration has been deeply committed to promoting employment opportunities and full participation for people with disabilities.
- In 1998, President Clinton created the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. The Task Force has developed a coordinated and aggressive national policy to bring adults with disabilities into gainful employment at a rate that is as close as possible to that of the general adult population.
- The President also signed and implemented the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which included Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 to improve worker training and placement options for people with disabilities.
- In 1999, the Clinton-Gore Administration also increased the "Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA) level from $500 to $700 per month, enabling individuals with disabilities to work and earn more without fear of losing critical Social Security disability benefits. At the 10th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Clinton also announced Administration action to index the SGA to keep pace with wage inflation. In addition, President Clinton announced an increase and indexing of the amount that beneficiaries can earn without triggering the clock on the 9-month Trial Work Period (TWP) )during which beneficiaries with disabilities can work and earn without affecting their benefits.
- President Clinton also signed the landmark bipartisan Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA) which enhances employment-related services for individuals with disabilities and enables Americans with disabilities to retain their Medicare or Medicaid coverage when they go to work.
- The Clinton-Gore Administration has also made the federal government into a model employer, directing agencies to provide reasonable accommodations and increase efforts to recruit and hire people with disabilities, expanding hiring opportunities for people with psychiatric disabilities, and calling for mental health parity for federal employees.
- In addition to adjusting the SGA and TWP amounts to enable Social Security disability beneficiaries to enter the workforce, the Administration announced a number of other steps on the 10th Anniversary of the ADA to promote employment opportunities, including the following:
- President Clinton called Federal agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities over a five-year period. The Administration is currently on track to meet that goal.
- Vice-President Gore announced steps to promote home and community-based services and housing options for people with disabilities as well as and promoting the development of new assistive technology for people with disabilities.
- The First Lady also announced a series of proposals to improve and increase opportunities for young people with disabilities to successfully transition to work and to achieve independence.
- The FY2001 budget agreement continues $20 million in Work Incentive grants, and funds a new office at the Department of Labor to promote employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities. The Administrationís FY2001 budget also called for a $1000 tax credit to offset the formal and informal employment costs incurred by working people with disabilities, which Congress unfortunately did not act on.
RESTORING FAIRNESS TO LEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Upon signing the welfare reform law, the President made a commitment to reversing unnecessary cuts in benefits to legal immigrants that had nothing to do with the lawís goal of moving people from welfare to work. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Noncitizen Benefit Clarification and Other Technical Amendments Act of 1998 invested $11.5 billion to restore disability and health benefits to 380,000 legal immigrants who were in this country before welfare reform became law (August 22, 1996). The Agricultural Research Act of 1998 provided Food Stamps for 225,000 legal immigrant children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities who entered the United States by August 22, 1996. In the FY 2001 budget process, the Administration fought hard to restore important disability, health, and nutrition benefits to additional categories of legal immigrants, at a cost of $2.5 billion over five years, but Congress failed to take these important steps to restore fairness to legal immigrants.