- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

More than 50 state leaders have written to Congress asking it to earmark 10 percent of welfare funds for pro-marriage and family-strengthening activities when the law is reauthorized next year.
When welfare reform was passed in 1996, it set "strong performance incentives and clear outcome measurements" for states to move people to work, state leaders said to Senate and House leaders in a Dec. 5 letter, which was released at last week's National Conference of State Legislatures.
These incentives led to "phenomenal gains" in work and self-sufficiency, said the state leaders, including Arizona State Sen. Mark Anderson, Oklahoma Health and Human Services Secretary Jerry Regier, Michigan State Rep. Doug Hart, Georgia State Sen. Donzella James and New Mexico State Sen. Mark Boitano.
However, "two of the 1996 act's congressionally mandated objectives to end dependence by promoting marriage and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families have largely been neglected," the leaders wrote.
They urged Congress to do three things:
"Designate 10 percent" of welfare funds for marriage education and skills development, responsible-fatherhood programs and community support.
Establish bonuses and performance standards for state activities that increase marriage rates and strengthen fatherhood, parenting and family formation.
Require annual reports on two-parent family formation in the welfare caseload.
Already, neglect of family issues has contributed to an "intergenerational downward spiral of fatherlessness and family decline," the leaders said. The next five years of reform "must place marriage, parenting and family strengthening on the front burner."
The letter was signed by 52 lawmakers from Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin.
It was sent to members on the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.
Separately on Friday, leaders of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) and George Washington University Women's Studies Program led a forum on the role of government in promoting marriage.
The IWPR recently issued a statement saying that promoting marriage hasn't been proved to reduce poverty and therefore federal welfare funds should stay with "proven poverty reduction programs" such as education, training, child care and health services.
"We should be fostering strong economic policies that make women self-sufficient, instead of trying to regulate the social makeup of women's lives," Heidi Hartmann, president of the IWPR, said at the forum, which included university professors Cynthia Harrison and Gwendolyn Mink, legal policy analyst Jacqueline Payne and reproductive issues analyst Leslie Watson.
Speakers at the forum warned that marriage promotion in welfare could force low-income women to maintain relationships with violent men or would discount such family structures as homosexual unions.

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