President Carter's welfare bill cleared its first major congressional hurdle yesterday, as the House Ways and Means welfare subcommittee completed work after two days of whirlwind voting.
Chairman James C. Corman (D - Calif.) grinned broadly as the subcommittee finished with the bill without making basic changes. a final, formal vote is scheduled for monday.
The subcommittee reduced the overall tab for 1982, the first full year in effect, to $55 billion, a cut of approximately $200 million from Cater's proposal. (the $5.5 billion would be in addition to existing welfare costs estimated at $24 billion in 1982.)
Last year, a similar but much more ambitious bill, costing $20 billion a year, was shepherded through subcommittee by Corman after months of voting only to die aborning because its fat price tag ran counter to the flood - tide of congressional budget cutting.
Corman announced firmly Monday as work began on this year's more modest bill that he had two immeditate goals. One was to get the bill out of subcommittee as fast as possible and not use precious time haggling over small details. The other was to keep its future cost acceptably low at about the $5.7 billion level proposed by Carer.
The key feature of the bill would set a nationwide minimum welfare payment for families with dependent children. That payment would be 65 percent of the povery line for those without other income, which would work out at present to a minimum of $4,700 for a family of four. about 13 states (mostly southern) now pay less. The payment would be partly cash and partly food stamps.
A second major feature would increase federal reimbursements to the states for most program costs by 10 percent (present reimbursements range from 50 percent to 83 percent) and make some other reimbursement changes that would hand the states $900 million in "fiscal relief" beginning in 1982.
A third major feature, which must be approved by the two congressional Labor committees, would provided 570,000 public service jobs and training slots at an average salary of $7,200 a year for welfare applicants unable to be placed in the private sector. The 5.5 billion price tag includes the costs of these slots.
Before approving the bill, the subcommittee adopted an amendment by Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) putting smoe of the minimum welfare-payment and stepped-up federal matching provisions into effect on Jan. 1, 1981, instead of waiting until the start of fiscal 1982. The net effect would be to give the states some $750 million in extra federal money in 1981, a year before the full program starts. New York would get $94 million of the extra $750 million.
Although approved by Corman's subcommittee, the president's program still faces formidable obstacles. Congress is still in a budget-cutting mood and even a (KEY OFF).5 billion package may seem too high to many. And Senate Finance Committee Chairman Russell B. Long (D-La.) is strongly opposed to many of minimum guarantees in the bill and may seek to derail it in the Senate.(KEYWORD)