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Bush Urges Welfare Reform - 2002-05-11

President Bush wants Congress to force more people on welfare to get jobs. Legislators are rewriting the laws governing public assistance.

President Bush says he wants to build on the success of bipartisan welfare reform passed during the Clinton administration, when greater work requirements helped cut the number of people on welfare in half.

For President Bush, the reform's real success has come in the number of lives changed as people found what he calls "the dignity of work."

States must now require work from an average of five percent of adults on public assistance. Mr. Bush wants to make that 70 percent of welfare recipients working 40 hours a week in a job or job training over the next five years.

That is not a penalty, he says, it is "the pathway to independence and self-respect."

"These work requirements must be applied carefully and compassionately," explained Mr. Bush. "Because many on welfare need new skills, my plan allows states to combine work with up to two days each week of education and job training. Our proposal allows for three months in full-time drug rehabilitation or job training. And adolescent mothers can meet their work requirements by attending high school."

Democrats say tougher work requirements will make it harder for states to take an individual approach to helping each person get off welfare. They also want more spending on vocational training.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush stressed he wants states to have more flexibility in spending welfare money to find innovative approaches to better job training, housing programs and low-income child care.

"Everyone in America benefits from compassionate welfare reform," said Mr. Bush. "Former welfare recipients gain new hope and know the independence and dignity of an honest day's work. As our recovery continues, business will need more motivated and trained workers. Good welfare reform laws can break dependency and help the American economy."

The president spent much of the past week speaking on domestic issues, including welfare and education reform, as campaigning begins for Congressional and state elections in November.

Mr. Bush helped raise money for Republican candidates in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, three Midwest states that are key to Republican hopes of maintaining a majority in the House of Representatives and regaining a majority in the Senate.