LCCR Criticizes House Passage of Welfare Bill

Media 05.16,02

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse coalition of civil and human rights organizations, today expressed deep regret at the House passage of HR 4737, The Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act of 2002. “The House reauthorization bill is a disappointing step backwards that will make it harder for welfare clients to make a permanent transition from welfare to work,” said Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference. “It’s unfortunate that House sponsors failed to heed warnings from the civil rights community and, instead, chose to pass legislation that would hamstring States’ ability to attend to the real needs of welfare clients.”

LCCR believes that making a permanent transition from welfare to work will take more than imposing burdensome work requirements on welfare clients. Rather, it will take a comprehensive range of supports and incentives to ensure that clients can find jobs and keep them while supporting themselves and their families. The deficiencies in the House passed bill sparked critical responses from numerous members of the LCCR coalition.

“The work requirements in the Republican bill are unrealistic and focus on arbitrary quotas instead of real people,” said AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee. “They want to replace good jobs with unpaid workfare and would leave thousands of families without any hope for a better future.”

Judith L. Lichtman, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families and Vice Chair of the Leadership Conference said, “Toughening welfare work requirements without providing real work supports — like more funding for child care and help in addressing family or medical emergencies — will jeopardize our most vulnerable families.” Meaningful welfare reform must start by making sure that families have access to the necessary supports that would allow them to move from welfare to work.

The bill’s new work requirements will also limit state flexibility. “The Welfare Reauthorization bill passed by the House today defies sound program planning and years of research by imposing a one-size-fits-all federal unfunded mandate on states and, as such, it is totally unacceptable,” said National Urban League President Hugh B. Price.

Of particular concern, the bill would make it harder for immigrant families to survive. “Clearly, Republican House members don’t believe that hard working immigrants deserve temporary assistance if they should find themselves unemployed for a spell,” stated Cecilia Munoz, Vice President of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation of the National Council of La Raza. “Further they apparently don’t believe that Hispanic families with limited English skills ought to have as good a chance of moving from welfare to work as other Americans.”

LCCR believes that it is essential for any welfare reauthorization proposal to adhere to fundamental principles of equality, fairness and social justice, and to increase the chances for all families in need to move permanently out of poverty. As noted by Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Associate General Secretary for Public Policy and the Director of the Washington Office of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCCC), “There is a moral obligation to provide assistance to and justice for those who live and work on the margins of our society. All of our member denominations recognize the measure of success will be not simply in job placement, but in real poverty reduction.”