WASHINGTON, DC - A group of centrist U.S. Senators led by Evan Bayh and Tom Carper today unveiled their proposal for the next generation of welfare reform. The Work and Family Act aims to build on the successes of the landmark welfare reform bill passed in 1996 by setting bold objectives to put work first and strengthen families while giving states the resources and flexibility they need to accomplish those goals. Bayh and Carper were joined at the press conference by cosponsors Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Zell Miller of Georgia. Insisting that work is the best way to self-sufficiency, the Senators propose increasing work participation requirements to 70% by 2007. But Bayh and Carper, both former governors, also want to give states the flexibility and resources to reach performance-based goals and hold them accountable for doing so. To more effectively help families break the cycle of poverty, the bill provides vital work supports such as child care and employment services to help welfare recipients overcome hurdles and successfully enter the workforce. "We have a real opportunity to take the best ideas on the right and left and build on the successes of the last five years," Bayh said. "We set bold goals for moving people out of welfare and into good-paying jobs, and we strengthen American families by confronting problems such as teen pregnancy and the epidemic of fatherlessness. Most importantly, we give states the resources and flexibility they need to reach those goals." "I think our ultimate objective must be to help those on welfare achieve independence, and not set states up for failure," Carper said. "We need to set the bar higher, but we also need to ensure that states achieve it in part by ensuring that more affordable childcare assistance is available to families going to work, and in part by ensuring that states continue to have the flexibility they need to get the job done." The Work and Family Act also seeks to end the cycle of welfare dependency by addressing issues plaguing American families. The bill includes strong measures to prevent teen pregnancy, toughen child support enforcement, and combat the epidemic of absentee fathers. In order to help strengthen families, the Bayh/Carper proposal will:
- Continue to make work a priority by expecting states to achieve a work participation rate of 70% by 2007.
- Set a national goal of reducing teen pregnancy by at least 25% over the next ten years;
- Get tough on deadbeat dads by requiring non-custodial parents to pay child support, get a job, or go to jail;
- Give children a better chance by promoting responsible fatherhood and stable, two-parent families