President Bush wants more Americans on welfare to start working. Mr. Bush wants Congress to increase work requirements for those receiving public assistance.
The President says he wants to build on the success of bipartisan welfare reform passed during the Clinton administration where greater work requirements helped cut the number of people on welfare by almost half.
States now require 30 hours a week of work from an average of five percent of adults on public assistance. Mr. Bush wants 70 percent of welfare recipients working 40 hours a week. "Rather than lowering standards, we need to keep high standards in America, particularly when it comes to what we expect in terms of work," he said. "We want 70 percent of people on welfare working by the next five years."
Democrats say tougher work requirements make it harder for states to take an individual approach to getting people off welfare. They want more spending on vocational training and child care to get recipients into better-paying jobs.
President Bush says his work requirements recognize the needs of many people on welfare by allowing up to two days a week for education or job training. The plan allows for three months in full-time drug rehabilitation and permits adolescent mothers to meet their work requirements by attending high school. "I recognize there are a lot of people who need help," he said. "And so within the 40 hour work week, there are credits for education and vocational training to help people help themselves. A work requirement is not punishment. A work requirement is part of liberation in our society."
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the president's plan. Mr. Bush wants Senate Democrats to do the same, saying he wants to give states more flexibility in using $16 billion in federal funds to find more innovative approaches to better job training, housing programs and low-income child care.