- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

The District, four states and the Virgin Islands shared in a $100 million bonus for reducing the rates of pregnancy out of marriage, the federal government said yesterday.
The District reduced its out-of-wedlock birth rate by 3.5 percent between 1997 and 2000, the largest decrease in the United States, said Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services.
The Virgin Islands reduced its rate by 2.6 percent, and Michigan reduced its rate by 1.2 percent. Colorado, Texas and Alabama each had reductions of less than 1 percent.
The District and the four states will each get about $19.9 million, and the Virgin Islands will receive $888,500.
This is the fourth time the District, Michigan and Alabama have won an "illegitimacy" bonus, which was created in the 1996 welfare reform law. To receive a bonus, states must show that their unwed birth rates fell within a certain time frame without increasing their abortion rates.
This could be the last year for the bonus, however.
The House voted in May to repeal the bonus and redirect its $100 million to promote healthy, married families through marriage education and pilot programs to reduce unwed births.
"President Bush's healthy-marriage initiative, which is pending before Congress, will enable our state partners to continue this important work by emphasizing the importance of marriage first," said Wade F. Horn, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for children and families.
A welfare bill passed in the summer by the Senate Finance Committee also would end the bonus but would redirect the money to a broader array of "marriage promotion" activities, such as teen-pregnancy prevention, domestic-violence prevention, welfare-to-work services and marriage education.
Welfare reform has been tabled for the moment; the Senate did not pass a bill before the welfare programs expired Sept. 30, but the chambers passed a resolution to continue the programs as they are until Dec. 31. Advocacy groups are urging Congress to deal with the welfare issue before adjourning this month.
In 2001, the nation's unwed birthrate stood at 33.4 percent, which means one out of three children is born to an unwed mother.

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