President Clinton directed the states on Saturday to keep teenage mothers who apply for welfare in their homes, in school and on track for a job.
The president announced a four-step plan he said would help end the cycle of welfare dependence for teen mothers.Clinton also renewed his call for the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a welfare-reform bill tailored to his specifications, including money for child care to permit parents to take jobs.
"If Congress sends me a welfare reform bill that is tough on work instead of tough on children and weak on work, I will proudly sign it," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.
But Republican governors and the House Republican Conference immediately attacked Clinton's overall welfare proposals, saying they keep the system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and sustain welfare as a way of life for millions.
Clinton said: "We have to make it clear that a baby doesn't give you the right, and won't give you the money, to leave home and drop out of school."
"Today we are moving to make responsibility a way of life, not an option," the president said as he announced these steps directed at the states:
- Require teenage mothers to stay in school as a condition for receiving welfare; 26 of the 50 states already have such a requirement. "`We're going to audit the progress of every state and make the results public," the president said.
- Challenge all 50 states to exercise their option to require teenage mothers to live at home, a step now taken by only 21 states. "There should be no incentive to leave home for a bigger welfare check," Clinton said.
- Authorize states to pay bonuses to teenage mothers who go to school and complete high school and to cut back the welfare checks of those who don't.
- Require teenage mothers who have dropped out of the education system and are receiving welfare to go back to school and sign contracts spelling out "exactly how they're going to take responsibility for their own lives."
The contracts require the teens to pledge to live at home, work toward finishing high school, attend parenting classes and establish the paternity of their children in order to help obtain child support. The contract states that benefits may be reduced for noncompliance.
Utah lawmakers didn't wait around to see what Clinton would do about welfare reform. Earlier this year, a substitute measure of HB293, entitled "employment assistance for Utah families," was passed. It requires participants to complete an employment plan and go to work within 24 months and to be off welfare in 36 months with limited exceptions. It also provides support services like child care.
Single teenage parents will be required to get their high school diplomas and in most cases will be required to live at home with parents or adult relatives. If young mothers don't live at home, their parents will be required to pay child support.
The president said his administration has already slashed red tape to permit 37 states to "take steps to fix our broken welfare system" and asserted that welfare and food stamp rolls are down as a result, that teen pregnancy rates have dropped and that more welfare recipients are working.
"Our job is to fix a welfare system that too often pulls families apart and turn it into one that pulls families together, to fix a system that traps too many people in a cycle of dependency . . . and instead to create one that promotes jobs and independence," he said.
"Now Congress needs to do its job - pass welfare reform," he said.
But Republican governors said they were not impressed.
"Four years ago, Bill Clinton came to Wisconsin and promised to end welfare as we know it," said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson. "It's now 1996 and Wisconsin has ended welfare but Bill Clinton hasn't done a thing."
Michigan Gov. John Engler wondered, "Why should the nation's governors, mayors and other local leaders have to go to Washington, get down on bended knee and plead for waivers, simply to require people to go to work?"
In January, Clinton vetoed the Republican version of welfare reform, contending that the measure would make policy changes and budget cuts that would fall hardest on children and undermine states' ability to move people from welfare to work.