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Clinton Touts Decline in Welfare Rolls

By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 11, 1999; Page A07

President Clinton yesterday hailed a continuing decline in the number of welfare recipients -- at their lowest level in 30 years -- and announced new regulations intended to give states more flexibility in moving people off welfare.

In his weekly radio address, Clinton said that since he took office in 1993, "we cut the welfare rolls nearly in half by a record 6.5 million people." There were 14.1 million welfare recipients in January 1993, according to the administration's count, but only 7.6 million as of last December.

"April 15th may not be the most favorite day for Americans," Clinton said, "but for these people," some of them paying taxes for "the very first time in their lives," the income tax deadline day is "a cause for celebration."

Clinton announced new rules, part of the 1996 welfare reform bill passed by Congress, to enforce strict state work requirements and hold states accountable for moving people from welfare to the work force.

The new regulations also give the states more flexibility in using federal money to pay for child care, transportation and job retention services to help people keep working.

Despite the promising trends, Clinton said that more needs to be done "to finish the job on welfare reform. . . . Now, in this time of great prosperity, with our economy booming and our confidence high, we can't afford to leave anyone behind."

Clinton praised the Senate for approving new funding to help low-income families pay for child care and urged the House to also do so. In addition, he called on Congress to extend the Labor Department's welfare-to-work program and fully fund his plan to provide transportation grants and housing vouchers "that will help more Americans leave welfare behind by getting from where they are to where the jobs are."

Clinton's proposal calls for $430 million for housing vouchers so people on welfare can move closer to jobs and $150 million in transportation assistance to help people commute to their jobs.

In this area, Maryland had the largest decline in welfare recipients, according to White House statistics. The state registered a 55 percent drop since 1993, going from 221,338 recipients to 99,852. Virginia showed nearly as sharp a decline, from 194,212 in 1993 to 94,383 at the end of 1998, or a 51 percent drop. The District's welfare rolls fell by 19 percent, from 65,680 to 53,455.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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