The White House, as part of the administration's welfare revision study, wants half a dozen states to set up demonstration projects that require all able-bodied welfare applicants not needed at home to care for small children to take a job -- either in private industry or in the public sector.
A document outlining "reform policy goals" given to state officials also suggests that total welfare benefits available to a family be "capped" by each state, that the total cost of welfare be reduced and that benefits be structured so that no one would be better off quitting a job (or reducing work hours) and going on welfare.
The concepts in the document are aimed primarily at low-income parents with small children who are receiving cash welfare payments from the program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children, plus other benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, other food aid and housing aid. However, some of the ideas could apply to all welfare clients, including the aged.
The document was drafted by a team of White House welfare experts led by Charles Hobbs, who heads a special study ordered by President Reagan Feb. 4 to find ways to increase work and strengthen the two-parent family. The document, written in November, has been given to officials in Arizona, North Carolina, Tennessee and other states in the past month as a guide to what the White House would like to see in demonstration projects it wants the states to set up.
The document appears to give hints as to what the Hobbs group will recommend next December. But White House officials who asked not to be named said the document is only a "discussion piece" and does not contain final decisions on what the Hobbs group will recommend.
Several state officials said Hobbs and his associates have been "extremely flexible" and have invited the states to tailor the demonstration projects as they choose.
The document says the current welfare system provides benefits to many people who are not poor and that it would be cheaper to give every poor person enough cash to reach the poverty line.
The current system "discourages work by providing more usable income to many individuals and families than they can make by working," "fails to provide incentives for the formation or maintenance of two-parent families" and fails to coordinate numerous welfare programs, the document says.
The document suggests the following as "reform policy goals":
As far as possible, the benefit for each person or family should be tailored to individual needs, and, therefore, the states would be allowed full freedom to set benefit levels without any "federally determined standard."
*To make sure that benefits go only to those who cannot otherwise meet their basic living requirements, individual and family benefits "should be capped at a state or locally determined assistance standard." Presumably this would prevent families from "pyramiding" benefits from several programs into a total well over the poverty line. Some state officials viewed this language as encouraging them to combine several different types of benefits, though not Medicaid, into a single cash grant covering all needs, perhaps with the federal government providing a bloc grant to finance it. But a White House official said, "It's not necessarily what we want."
*"All able-bodied public assistance applicants not needed to care for young children should be required to work: Those who cannot find regular employment should be required to participate in a public service work program as a condition of receiving public assistance." This "workfare" proposal corresponds to legislative requests the president has made.