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Bush Promotes Welfare Reform Plan - 2002-02-27

President Bush says more low income Americans need to find work or they will be cut off from public assistance under changes he wants in a welfare reform law. The president wants religious groups to be more involved in helping people get off welfare.

President Bush wants to raise the percentage of welfare recipients who are required to work from 50 percent to 70 percent within five years. He says more people working will improve the quality of life for those receiving public assistance, reflecting what he calls a commitment to return "an ethic of work to an important place in all American lives."

"We need to make sure that work is an integral part of any welfare re-authorization, that the cornerstone of a good bill understands that when we help somebody find work, and I emphasize help somebody find work, that leads to more independence, more self-esteem, and more joy and hope," the president said.

President Bush says he wants young mothers on welfare to get credit for staying in school as part of a new 40-hour work week requirement. He also wants more money for programs that promote marriage, so fewer children will live in single-parent households.

President Bush says working parents are also important role models encouraging children to stay in school. "The ability for somebody to realize a kind of independent life, less dependent on government, not only affects that person, but it also affects a lot of other people, starting with the children," he said.

The president's plans for re-authorizing welfare include more funding for child care, job training, and drug rehabilitation.

He also wants to make food subsidies available to legal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and are not citizens. That assistance was banned under the 1996 law, though legal immigrants were able to apply for other programs.

Mr. Bush repeated his call for more funding for community and faith-based groups involved in social programs. He says government must not discriminate against religious groups helping to improve American lives. Critics say it is unrealistic for the Bush administration to expect welfare recipients to find work during an economic recession.