‘Welfare Reform Bills Coming’

I found the column “Welfare Reform Bills Coming Right and Left” by Charles Morris (Opinion, Jan. 3) to be a very good description of the current situation; however, his prescription of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s (D-N.Y.) bill could lead to great disaster. I am sure that the intent of both Morris and Moynihan is very honorable; however, the Moynihan bill would undercut an entitlement to poor children which has been built up and affirmed over 40 years.

The premise of that entitlement is that poor children deserve minimum levels of support when their parents are having difficulties in supporting them. There is a lot of difference between reform programs which offer adequate ladders out of poverty with protection of individual rights, and poorly funded coercive programs.

There are some major differences between a good reform bill such as HR 1720 that has passed the House and Moynihan’s bill.

The House bill is built around welfare-to-employment programs and contains modest improvements in such programs, support services and benefits. The Job Opportunities and Basic Skills portion of the Senate bill requires all states to set up a program forcing all nonexempt recipients to participate in a job-training program or to find work. In contrast to the House bill, there is no requirement that states provide education and training.


In the Senate bill the Community Work Experience Program (workfare) adds the burden to already fragile families of having to work off the value of benefits at the rate of the minimum wage. Furthermore, because workfare programs are not supposed to displace regular workers, the assignments are commonly to dead-end tasks. In the House bill, workfare assignments are restricted to six months and states must provide some education and training.

Under current law, caretaker parents of children under the age of 6 are exempt from mandatory work requirements. Moynihan’s bill would reduce the age of the child to 1 without guaranteeing adequate child care. For parents under 22 there is no exemption from the jobs program with children of any age. While the Senate bill would offer some access to child care, such as capped vouchers of $160 per month, there is no protection from loss of benefits for families who cannot arrange adequate care.

I would hope that Morris would reconsider his prescription.



Associate Conference Minister

Southern California Conference

of United Church of Christ