THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 4, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
The East Room
ON WELFARE REFORM
3:15 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Vesta Kimble,
that fine statement and for the good work you do. And I welcome your
colleagues and co-workers from Maryland here. I thank Congressman
and Congressman Roemer for coming. There was a vote in the House of
Representatives which was concluded literally two minutes before we
started this ceremony and they got here as quick as they could. We
welcome you and thank you for your role in welfare reform.
I'd like to thank Secretary Herman and Secretary Shalala for the
terrific job they have done, and welcome all of you in the audience,
including my good friend, Eli Segal, who founded our partnership with
the business community, about which I'll say more later. The First
was just a few moments ago meeting with members and I think maybe some
former members of the D.C. Control Board. I know that some of them
here and I welcome them as well.
Two years ago I stood with many of you in the Rose Garden and
the following statement: "From now on our nation's answer to the
problems of poverty will no longer be a never ending cycle of welfare;
it will be the dignity, the power, and the ethic of work. . . . We
taking an historic chance to make welfare what it was meant to be: a
second chance, not a way of life."
As those of us who have been working for years and years to
the system knew all too well, welfare had in too many ways failed our
society, and more important, failed the millions of families it was
designed to help. So in the Rose Garden we came together two years
to restore our basic bargain of providing opportunity to all those
willing to exercise responsibility in turn. We ended welfare as we
it and made way for a system based on the dignity of independence and
the value of work.
But I would also like to reiterate something Secretary Shalala
said. We did not want to put poor people moving from welfare to work
the exact same position too many people who've always been in the work
force find themselves, of having to choose between being a good worker
and a good parent. So we said, okay, we will require people who have
move from welfare to work, if they're able-bodied, to go to work. But
we will leave their children with food assistance and guaranteed
coverage, and we will invest more in child care and other family
Today we come here not only to observe this anniversary but to
to rest the last vestige of the old system -- an anti-work,
provision that has deprived some two-parent families of their Medicaid
coverage when a parent secures a full-time job.
But first, on this important anniversary, I think it's important
to recognize that this new strategy -- this great new experiment that
launched two years ago -- has already shown remarkable signs of
Two years ago, we said welfare reform would spark a race to
independence, not a race to the bottom, and this prediction is coming
According to the National Governors Association, state
in helping former welfare parents succeed at work have gone up by
one-third, and spending on child care has increased by one-half. Andlet me remind you, I believe this has happened partly because the
Congress in the Balanced Budget Amendment appropriated $3 billion for
child care, but partly because there was a little-noticed provision in
the welfare reform law which lets states keep the amount of money they
were receiving for the welfare case load in February of '94, when it
reached an all-time high.
So as the case loads go down, they can keep the money as long as
they reinvest it in the potential of the families involved. And I
that was a very good thing to do.
We also said back then that work should pay more than welfare.
Last week the Urban Institute reported that family income goes up more
than 50 percent, on average, when parents move from welfare to
entry-level jobs, and significantly more when they move up to
work. And I must say, I was especially pleased to note how helpful
Earned Income Tax Credit is for families making this transition. In
several states it accounts for almost half the income gains.
For those of you who may not know it, the Earned Income Tax
is a tax cut to lower-income working people that is especially
to working families with children. We doubled it in 1993, and because
of that provision, today it's worth a tax cut of approximately a
thousand dollars a year to a family of four with an income of under
$30,000 a year. Obviously, for people working for more modest wages
than that, it means a very great deal.
Today we have more good news. In a few moments I will release
first annual report to Congress on welfare reform -- precisely the
of report we had hoped for two years ago. It shows that the number of
welfare recipients entering the work force rose by nearly 30 percent
a single year. It reports that states are spending more per person on
welfare-to-work efforts than they did two years ago, including health
care, job training, job placement, child care, and job retention.
Come in, Congressman Shaw, you're welcome. (Laughter.) Thank
for the role you've played in welfare reform legislation. We're glad
It shows that more single parents are moving into the work
a very significant statistic. And it confirms that the percentage of
Americans now on welfare is at its lowest level since 1969 -- 29
There are other, more powerful signs of success that of course a
can't show. Too often we take for granted what it really means for a
family to reconnect to the world of work. Work is more than a punch
card, more than a paycheck. It provides structure to a day, link to a
society, dignity for a family. It can build self-confidence and
self-esteem. There is nothing like the pride in a child's eyes when
or she goes to school and can answer, often for the first time, what
their parents do for a living.
One of the most important ways we can now build on these
triumphs is to make absolutely sure that parents who do enter the work
force can go to bed at night without worrying that they will lose
coverage for their families. That is why I'm proud to announce that
Department of Health and Human Services will revise its regulations to
allow all states to continue to provide Medicaid coverage to
families after a parent takes a full-time job. Believe it or not,
the old rules adults in two-parent families who worked more than 100
hours per month could actually be cut off Medicaid in many states.
Perhaps no aspect of the old welfare system did more to defy
common sense and insult our common values than this so-called 100-hour
rule. Just think of the message it sent. It took away health care
people who secured a full-time job just as we were imploring everybody
to move from welfare to work. Instead of rewarding stable families,
actually punished couples that work and work hard to stay together.
Instead of demanding responsibility, it basically said a father could
more for his children's health by sitting at home or walking away than
earning a living.
The 100-hour rule was wrong. Now, it and every other strand of
the old welfare system are history. The remaining challenges are ones
we all have to accept. All of us -- the public, private, religious,
nonprofit sectors -- have an obligation to continue helping all former
welfare recipients not only find, but stay in those jobs.
First, we must continue to offer states and communities the
they need to promote work. Today, we will release $60 million more in
Welfare-to-Work grants to states to help mothers and fathers facing
most significant employment hurdles. And I also want to call on
Congress to fully fund my plan to provide housing vouchers for welfare
recipients who need to move closer to their place of work.
Some recent studies, including some coming out of New York, show
that the effects of welfare reform in terms of people being able to
into the workplace have been quite uneven, depending upon the level of
preparation of the people on welfare for the work force and their
of isolation from available jobs. So these are important next steps.
Second, the private sector -- the true engine of job creation in
our country -- must continue to do its part. Listen to this: last
our Welfare-to-Work partners, who were mobilized by Eli Segal, as I
earlier, hired more than 135,000 former welfare recipients. I have
asked them to hire another 270,000 by the end of this year. Thank
Eli, but you have to do more. (Laughter.)
Third, we must continue to welcome former welfare recipients
the federal family workforce. Today we released new data showing that
the federal government has hired more than 5,700 former welfare
recipients in just the past year. That means we're well over half the
way toward our goal of hiring 10,000 by the year 2000.
Fourth, let me say again, I think it's important that we do more
to bring the benefits of this economic revival our country is enjoying
into isolated urban and rural areas where free enterprise has not let
yet reached. A lot of the people who are still stuck on welfare are
physically separate from the job availability. And I have asked the
Congress to approve a second round of empowerment zones, to approve a
whole range of initiatives, and Secretary Herman and Secretary Cuomo's
budget designed to create jobs principally in the private sector in
isolated inner-city and rural neighborhoods. So I hope that will be a
part of the work we conclude in the days remaining in this
Welfare reform itself was a bipartisan effort. It became an
American issue. Now, providing jobs and opportunity and new
and new free enterprise in these neighborhoods that still have not
the economy should also be an American issue.
We have now the lowest unemployment in 28 years, the lowest
inflation in 32 years, the highest homeownership in history, wages are
on the rise for our families after 20 years of stagnation. This is
window of maximum opportunity to make sure every poor person in
stuck on welfare has a chance to be a part of America's future and to
share in the American Dream. If we can't do it now, when our economy
and our prospects and our confidence are so strong, then when?
Now we have jobs waiting to be filled in almost every community.
I've been working with people here in Washington, D.C. -- there are
hundreds of thousands of jobs in information technology-related fields
open today, everywhere from Silicon Valley to the suburban areas of
nation's capital. If we make the best use of this time, we can change
the whole culture of poverty and long neglected neighborhoods. We can
help millions more people ensure that their children will be raised in
homes full of hope and pride based on dignity and work.
To all of you who have made this day come to pass, who have
a role in the progress of the last two years, and to all of you who
committed to keeping on until the job is done, I extend the thanks of
our nation. Great job. Let's do better.
Thank you very much and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 3:28 P.M. EDT