Court-ordered child support payments would be automatically deducted from the absent parent's paycheck under a plan by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) to overhaul the welfare system.
Moynihan's plan, announced yesterday, also would require states to establish remedial education, job-training and work programs for welfare parents, and would extend welfare benefits to two-parent families when the father is unemployed.
Moynihan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee's subcommittee on family policy, will introduce the bill Tuesday. Six Democrats and two Republicans, Sen. David Durenberger (Minn.) and Sen. John C. Danforth (Mo.) are cosponsors, according to Moynihan aides.
Late Friday Moynihan said he received a letter from Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), Durenberger and five other Republicans on the Finance Committee expressing a desire to work on a compromise.
Moynihan, who has written several books on welfare and has been working for the past six months on this proposal, said he hopes for Finance Committee action this year but does not expect Senate floor action until next session.
The centerpiece of his plan is a requirement that the states, for the first time, set up comprehensive remedial education, job-training and work programs for welfare parents. There are about 3.8 million such parents, the vast majority women, in the existing Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, whose name would be changed to the child support supplement program under Moynihan's proposal.
Moynihan said that despite lots of talk about training welfare mothers for jobs, virtually nothing has been done since the Social Security Act first created the AFDC program in 1935.
"Everyone thinks we've had a lot of big programs. We haven't had any," he said.
To encourage welfare recipients to seek jobs, the Moynihan bill would continue child-care and Medicaid benefits for up to nine months after a recipient leaves welfare.
As soon as a court ordered a parent to pay child support, the information would be sent to the parent's employer. The employer would automatically deduct the amount from pay and send it to the state, which would forward it to the custodial parent. Under existing law, deduction of a child-support obligation from wages is usually permitted only when the absent parent falls behind on payments.
The automatic deduction provision is designed to make sure that absent parents meet their legal child-support obligations.
The third major provision of the Moynihan bill would require that all states make eligible for welfare all low-income families with children where the father is present in the house but unemployed. Only half of the states now do so.
Moynihan said his bill was based on proposals recommended on a 49-to-1 vote recently by the National Governors' Association under the leadership of Delaware Gov. Michael N. Castle (R) and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D).
Legislation similar to Moynihan's has been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, with proposed amendments by the House Education and Labor and Energy and Commerce committees. However, it does not include any mandatory automatic deduction provision for collection of child-support payments.
Under Moynihan's proposal, subject to availability of funds, enrollment in a remedial education, work-experience or job-training program would be mandatory for any welfare parent with a child age 3 or over, or, at state option, 1 or over, as long as child care is provided if needed. The House measure has a similar provision.
Moynihan said he would like states to raise their welfare benefits because in many areas they are extremely low and have not kept pace with inflation. But he said there was "no point" in including a minimum-benefit requirement in his bill because there was "no consensus" in the Senate for such a provision. The House bill, as originally proposed by Rep. Harold E. Ford (D-Tenn.), had a minimum-benefit requirement, but it was dropped in committee action.
Moynihan estimates the federal cost of his proposal at about $2.3 billion over five years, compared with at least $5.3 billion for the House measure.
Moynihan's measure costs less because it mandates fewer services to welfare clients and does not increase the federal reimbursements to the states if they increase their basic welfare benefits. The House measure also is more expensive because it requires states to disregard more earnings in computing welfare benefits.
Moynihan's proposal also anticipates savings of $374 million over five years from the mandatory withholding provision and from requiring interstate uniformity in child support awarded by courts.
The education and training programs would be financed by an annual federal appropriation of up to $140 million to pay 90 percent of the cost of state job projects. After the $140 million is used, the Treasury would reimburse states for 60 percent of their expense for job programs; there would be no need to appropriate the money.