- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

The Bush administration's welfare budget strikes the right balance of maintaining reform and making needed changes, an administration official says.
"This is a well-thought-out budget," said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Despite inevitable disagreements about some details in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, "I actually think we're going to grab consensus out of the jaws of conflict," Mr. Horn told The Washington Times on Friday.
The administration's 2003 budget, released Feb. 4 and discussed at a House hearing Wednesday by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, reveals White House positions on the 1996 welfare reform law, which is set to be renewed this year in Congress.
The budget maintains the core $16.5 billion TANF grant to states and reinstates two funding streams that had expired a $319 million a year progam for supplemental grants and a contingency fund worth $2 billion over five years.
Child-care funding remains at $4.8 billion for the second year, as does state flexibility to use $4.7 billion in other programs for child care. Also maintained is the $50 million a year Title V abstinence-education grant.
Title V, plus other White House proposals to spend $73 million in a community-based abstinence education program and $12 million in the Adolescent Family Life Program, amounts to $135 million for abstinence education. This funding fulfills a campaign pledge President Bush made to create "parity" between funds for sex education and abstinence education, HHS officials said.
Mr. Horn said the budget makes a "very dramatic change" regarding TANF's $100 million illegitimacy bonus fund, created to reward states that lowered their unwed birth ratios. Now it will be a "research-demonstration and technical-assistance fund, focused on family formation and healthy marriage issues," he said.
"We will be funding innovative approaches to helping couples who choose marriage for themselves to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy marriages," he said, stressing that the fund "will not be used for" marriage bonuses or to coerce couples into marriage.
During listening sessions last year in the states, Mr. Horn added, "we did not hear states saying, 'We don't want to do anything in this [marriage] area.' We heard them say, 'We don't know how.' We want to help them with the 'how.'"
Other pro-family proposals include $20 million for responsible fatherhood programs and revamping child-support funding rules to make it easier for states to give welfare families more of the money collected on their behalf.
In related issues:
The Bush administration has not revealed its position on reopening TANF to noncitizens, which has been proposed in a bill by House Democrats, led by Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland. The administration has said, however, it wants to reopen the food stamp program to noncitizens who have been here for five years.
Conservatives and liberals have been calling for the welfare law to specify new goals: conservatives want to see illegitimacy reduced and marriage increased, while liberals want to see poverty reduced. In his remarks before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Thompson said "child well-being" would be added as "an overarching goal" of TANF.


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