Bread for the World On President Bush's Outline Of Welfare Proposal

Bread for the World
Tuesday, 26 February 2002

Below are the comments of Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a leading faith-based anti-hunger advocacy organization, on the welfare reauthorization plan proposed by President Bush today. Bread for the World's campaign this year, Working from Poverty to Promise, is focused on strengthening welfare by: focusing the program on reducing poverty, not just reducing caseloads; allowing for expanded work supports like child care and transportation assistance; full funding of TANF grants to states; and, targeted flexibility for families subjected to arbitrary time limits on TANF eligibility.]

"The President's rhetoric struck the right tone. Far too often, our leaders have demonized those who must turn to welfare in times of need, but the President's characterization of the poor as our 'neighbors' rather than our 'problems' was encouraging to hear.

"The President's heart is in the right place, but his proposal goes in the wrong direction. At a time when unemployment has increased and the economy has slowed, the President's demand for more stringent work requirements misses the mark. Approximately 40 percent of those who leave welfare are unable to find work, so adding a tougher work requirement without adding new job training and educational opportunities defies logic.

"This is also especially troubling because the President's proposal calls for a mandatory 40-hour work week but no new money for child care assistance -- often a prohibitively expensive obstacle to low-income parents staying in a full-time job. Only one in seven families currently eligible for child care assistance receive any financial help, largely due to the lack of funding available.

"The President does propose vague job training and education opportunities. However, where will the necessary funding come from? Governors - Republicans and Democrats alike - want and need additional resources to make the system work for families struggling to leave poverty behind.

"The President's words are well-meaning, but our 'neighbors' need more than good intentions. They need a TANF program that is compassionate and focuses on reducing poverty. The transition from poverty to promise is a difficult one, and the President's proposal does not provide enough resources to allow families to move to self sufficiency."

For more information, or to contact Bread for the World, see their website at: www.bread.org

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