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Welfare Reform: A Special Report

Effective Oct. 1, welfare -- as the nation knew it for the past six decades -- ended. President Clinton signed historic legislation Aug. 22, which ended the federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor and turned welfare programs over to the states. "I hope this day will be remembered not for what it ended, but for what it began," Clinton said at a White House ceremony, with three former welfare recipients at his side. With the stroke of a pen, the new law not only impacts recipients of welfare. Top state officials from across the country say they have little idea how to implement many key components of the law. The District of Columbia filed a request early, which the president approved, for exemption from some of the tough terms of the bill.

Large disparities have always existed in welfare payments to states, and under the new federal reform legislation, no two states will have the same resources with which to meet the new requirements. This uneven payment system poses difficulties that never existed before and could help determine whether welfare reform succeeds or fails.

Critics have attacked the welfare reform law without hesitation. Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole called the District's provision a "weak exemption." And in an unusually public move, two high-ranking officials at the Department of Health and Human Services resigned in protest over the bill.

This special report will help you make sense of the welfare squeeze, from the angst of campaign-conscious politicians to the children on welfare, whom some say have been invisible throughout the debate. Consider the commentary of well-informed pundits. Read The Post's coverage from 60 days back. Participate in a dialogue with people on all sides of the debate. And see what key players have said along the way. Begin your study by viewing the text of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

LaWanda Stone
WashingtonPost.com Staff
October 22, 1996

What will happen to mothers who need financial support, fathers of children on welfare, teenagers with offspring and the children of the working poor whose lives will change dramatically now that welfare reform has become law? Get an idea from these Post articles.

Analyze the latest news articles about welfare reform from the past 14 days of The Washington Post.

Some argue that the welfare-reform law is a guaranteed ticket to starvation for those who will be denied financial assistance for food. Presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos said Clinton would not sign "a bad bill." Join our National discussion to let us know whether the bill meets your principles.

Take a look at how various think tanks have analyzed welfare reform. These links will take you off the WashingtonPost.com site. The information on the sites has not been created by The Washington Post or WashingtonPost.com staff. To return to WashingtonPost.com, click on your browser's "Back" button or bookmark this page.

THE URBAN INSTITUTE: This site features information on trends in teenage childbearing, child-care block grants and the Personal Responsibility Act.

U.S. CENSUS POVERTY STATISTICS: Just who will be affected the most by welfare reform? This official U.S. Census Bureau site provides poverty thresholds by size of family and number of children, historical poverty tables since 1959 and low-income estimates for selected areas.

AMERICAN PUBLIC WELFARE ASSOCIATION: Learn more about the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act by viewing an analysis of each provision, from child nutrition programs to benefits to immigrants. Also peruse a detailed recent history of welfare reform.

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