September 10,2003

Grassley’s Welfare Reform, Improvement Bill Wins Committee Approval

WASHINGTON -- Legislation from Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, to update and improve the nation’s welfare program today won committee approval. The chairman’s proposal makes improvements over current law.

“This bill strengthens work, gives states more flexibility and promotes marriage and family,” Grassley said. “It builds on earlier goals to help people out of poverty and into rewarding activities. I hope the full Senate will take up this bill as soon as possible.”

Congress has to re-authorize the 1996 law this session. Grassley’s proposal builds on thesuccess of the 1996 law and improves it with policy changes that strengthen work, improve stateflexibility, and promote marriage and family.

Following are:

(1) a summary of Grassley’s bill, the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone Act (PRIDE)

(2) Grassley’s opening statement from today's committee meetingHighlights of the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone Act(PRIDE)

The following provisions are maintained from current law:

  • No individual entitlement
  • Five year time limit
  • Same core activities for work
  • Maintain funding level for TANF block grant
  • Maintain supplemental grants at current level
  • States can count up to 12 months of vocational education as meeting work requirment
  • States can count minor parents in school as fully participating in work
  • Maintains current sanction policies

Strengthens Work

Increases the work participation rates for states 5% each year, from 50% in 2004 to 70% in2008.

Eliminates the caseload reduction credit (which has erased most states' obligation to ensurethat ANY TANF recipient is engaged in work) and replaces it with an employment credit whichemphas good jobs.

Caps the credit, so that the states have a real participation rate. The value of the credit isphased down so that in FY 2008, all states must have a real work participation rate of 50%. Moststate now have an effective participation threshold of 0.

Increases the minimum threshold for participation in core work activities from 20 to 24hours.

Increases the standard weekly average number of hours from 30 for parents with a child oversix. Adopts a tiered approach, assigning credit along a range of hours, with the standard hour at 34.

Increases the standard weekly average of hours from 20 for parents with a child under six.Adopts a tiered approach, assigning credit along a range of hours, with the standard hour at 24.

Ensures that every TANF family has a plan for achieving self-sufficiency. States mustprepare a plan for every family receiving assistance and in most cases that plan should involve someamount of work or work readiness activities.

Improves State Flexibility

Allows states to claim partial credit for hours work below the standard hour. Currently, arecipient only counts toward the work participation requirement if the recipient meets the standardhour.

Allows states to engage individuals in a broader range of activities, including job search,substance abuse treatment, post-secondary education and training and other barrier removal activitiesafter the 24 hour threshold of core work activities is met.

Allows states to engage adult recipients in a broad range of activities, including: substanceabuse treatment, post-secondary education and training and other barrier removal activities for sixmonths out of 24 months.

Allows states to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not to count families towardstheir participation rate in the first month of assistance.

Makes contingency fund more accessible to states.

Promotes Marriage and Family

Provides $100 million a year in matching grants for marriage promotion and $100 milliona year for research, demonstration and technical assistance primarily related to marriage.

Adopts the Domenici/Bayh/Santorum bill to promote responsible fatherhoodIncludes a special rule relating to a single parent caring for a child or dependent with aphysical or mental impairment.

Improves child support collection, assignment and distribution

Increases child care spending for the current unmet need, consistent with the Budget Resolution.



Opening Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley
Senate Finance Committee Mark-up
Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone (PRIDE)
September 10, 2003

I call the committee to order. We meet today to mark up the Personal Responsibility andIndividual Development for Everyone Act, or PRIDE Act, which would reauthorize the TemporaryAssistance for Needy Families Act, or TANF. I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues on bothsides of the aisle. Everyone has compromised to get us to where we are able to mark up today. I'mdisappointed that this is not a bipartisan mark up. But I would point out that I wasn't able to supportthen-Chairman Baucus' mark last year either.

However, I appreciate the fact that Senator Baucus, in the Senate Finance Committeetradition, has worked to ensure that the process can go forward. I am hopeful that we will continueto work together productively, and achieve a bipartisan consensus. I am aware that a majoroutstanding issue is child care funding. I realize that for some, this is a key priority. My intentionis to defer the issue of child care to the floor where the whole Senate can work its will. Advocatesfor increasing child care funding owe an enormous debt to Senator Olympia Snowe, who will takethe lead on an amendment to increase child care funding when we get to the floor.

I hope that the full Senate will consider the legislation as soon as possible. The 1996 welfarereform bill ended the individual entitlement to assistance. This key reform has largely contributedto a significant and unexpected decline in the welfare rolls. The negative outcomes predicted bysome have not materialized. A number of key indicators that relate to child poverty and employmenthave shown improvement. However, there is more that we should be doing to help families livingin deep and persistent poverty. The average welfare check for a family receiving cash assistance is$350 a month. That averages out to eleven dollars a day! We are not doing these families, and thechildren in them, any favors by allowing them to continue living in the isolation and despair of deepand persistent poverty. The two key improvements to the 1996 Act that I believe the Congress hasan obligation to act on are: strengthening the work requirement and improving healthy familyformation provisions.

Currently, most adults receiving assistance report no work activity. Clearly, that does nothelp move these families into self-sufficiency. Many argue that the way to move families into selfsufficiencyis to encourage additional work. The legislation we are marking up today recognizesthat the success achieved by TANF and Work First programs are a result of a sustained emphasis onadult attachment to the workforce. My mark would build on the success of the past by increasingwork hours for individuals and work participation rates for states. However, the mark would providefor "partial credit" for hours below the 34-hour standard set in the mark. This approach recognizesthat some recipients might not meet the full-time standard; for example, persons in unsubsidizedemployment might be employed part-time or part of the month. This approach also recognizes thatstates may expend significant resources moving an individual from zero hours of activity into 20hours of activity. States should get credit toward their participation rate for that type of effort.

While some believe that work is the way to self-sufficiency, there are also those who believe that thebest way to move families into self-sufficiency is through state flexibility in terms of what activitiescan count toward the participation rate.

The chairman's mark includes activities that maintain all the flexibility of current law andadds new flexibility in countable activities. The mark would allow states to engage recipients inshort-term "barrier" removal activities for three months in a 24-month period. Many states havesuch programs and some have done these under "waivers." The mark would expand the list ofactivities that count after a recipient has engaged in core work activities for 24 hours. It wouldencourage states to provide post-employment activities, particularly education or additional jobsearch, for working recipients to enhance their job skills and training to advance and leave welfare.

I believe the approach envisioned in the mark is an appropriate compromise between theseperspectives, one which favors work and one which favors increased flexibility. There are two mainreasons why families fall into poverty. One is a lack of work skills and the other is a result of asingle parent having to raise a child alone. I see healthy marriages as having important economicimplications for children. The poverty rate for all children in married-couple families is 8.2 percent.By contrast, the poverty rate for all children in single-parent families is four times higher at 35.2percent. I also see healthy marriages as having implications for child well-being. Research showsthat children born or raised in single-parent families are more at risk for a wide range of socialmaladies, including poverty, welfare dependency, academic failure and crime. My mark woulddirect $100 million a year for matching grants to states for programs to promote healthy marriagesand $100 million a year for research, demonstrations and technical assistance primarily associatedwith marriage.

Activities that could be supported by these funds include: education in high schools onrelationship skills and budgeting; marriage skills and relationship skills programs which mayinclude: parenting skills, financial management, conflict resolution and job and career advancement,as well as divorce reduction programs that teach relationship skills. It is important to note that themark includes provisions which make it clear that participation in these programs is strictly voluntaryand there must be coordination with domestic violence specialists. We have before the committeetoday a proposal which strengthens work, gives states more flexibility and promotes marriage andfamily. I know there are outstanding issues relative to these proposals. I look forward to continuingto work with my colleagues on these issues. Thank you, and I turn to my friend and colleague,Senator Baucus, for his opening statement.