- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

House Republicans plan to introduce in early February a welfare-reform bill that is virtually the same as the one passed last May, according to an outline obtained by The Washington Times.
"The fact that we are essentially introducing the same bill from last year should indicate how strongly House Republicans feel this plan is the right mix of work requirements and job-training aid," a House aide familiar with the issue said.
"Our starting point for this bill is what passed the House in May," with the figures updated to run through 2008, said another Republican aide.
One importance difference is that the bill will speed up state access to a new $300 million-a-year fund for marriage-promotion projects, the aide said.
"Instead of the marriage funds starting in fiscal year 2004, like the rest of the bill, we actually try to get some of that money out the door in 2003, so we can test some of these things and see what they do," the aide said.
President Bush is likely to mention welfare reform in tomorrow night's State of the Union address.
The House Republican welfare plan expands a "work first" focus by requiring states to put 70 percent of their caseloads into work activities by 2008.
It also increases the welfare "workweek" to 40 hours, with welfare recipients required to spend 24 hours in direct work and 16 hours in state-approved activities. The latter can include training and education, or, if needed, substance-abuse treatment or child care activities.
In addition, the House bill will:
Maintain funding for the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), at $16.7 billion a year, even though caseloads have dwindled.
Fund child care programs at $4.8 billion a year, plus add an extra $2 billion over five years.
Allow states to transfer up to half their TANF funds to child care; currently they can only transfer 30 percent of such funds.
Fund "responsible fatherhood" programs at $20 million a year.
Create a "State Flex Program" to allow governors and state officials to better meld their TANF, food stamps, public housing, child care and work programs.

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