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  •   Clinton to Propose More Welfare-to-Work Funding

    By Judith Havemann and Walter Pincus
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Tuesday, January 19, 1999; Page A1

    President Clinton will propose in his State of the Union address tonight a $1 billion expansion of the federal government's efforts to help the nation's most disadvantaged families move from welfare to work, White House officials said yesterday.

    The officials said the initiative will help about 200,000 welfare families get jobs.

    "Despite the enormous progress we have made in the last few years in moving people from welfare to work, we need to make an extra effort for the people still on the rolls because they will be the hardest to place," said Bruce Reed, the president's chief domestic policy adviser.

    The initiative is particularly aimed at increasing employment of low-income, absent fathers of children on welfare, so they can pay child support and get involved again in their children's lives. Many of these fathers have prison records and only 30 percent have held a job in the past year, according to a recent study. Only about 10 percent to 15 percent of children on public assistance receive any formal child support from their absent parent.

    Scheduled for delivery in the House chamber at 9 p.m., just hours after his lawyers wrap up their first day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial, Clinton's speech will not include a single mention of the word impeachment, aides said. The president insisted on pushing ahead with his speech, despite its awkward timing, to convince the American people that he is conducting business as usual even as the Senate considers his removal.

    Officials have released near-daily bursts of news about tonight's proposals in an effort to demonstrate the same workmanlike atmosphere. But despite a steady stream of selective announcements, the White House has been close-mouthed about Clinton's proposals for the premier domestic issue, Social Security. Clinton will endorse using some of the budget surplus for a new retirement program that would allow investing in the stock market, but this will be distinct from his plan for an overhaul of Social Security, a source said.

    Previous announcements have outlined plans to offer tax credits for long-term care for the elderly and to help community clinics and hospitals collaborate in making sure patients get the treatment they need.

    Among other domestic and foreign policy proposals previewed yesterday by White House officials were:

    An initiative to bring greater accountability to state and local school systems. Clinton will offer a five-point plan to hold schools accountable for the $20 billion in federal educational spending they receive.

    The plan, first reported in yesterday's New York Times, would reward districts that make sure teachers are qualified in the subjects they teach, enforce classroom discipline, intervene to help low-performing schools, end "social" promotion of students who have not mastered the material taught during the year, and issue "report cards" to parents on issues such as class size, teacher qualifications and student scores.

    A tax credit of up to $500 per child age 1 or younger in families with only one breadwinner, according to the Associated Press. The initiative is part of a child-care proposal expected to total $18 billion over five years to help working poor and middle-class families pay for the child care they need while holding down jobs.

    A new round of trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, aimed at reducing international barriers to commerce in a host of sectors including agriculture and services. The last set of global trade liberalization talks was concluded in 1994 after eight years of haggling among the more than 100 participating nations.

    The proposal to lower trade barriers further involves some political risk. Leaders in other countries, notably the European Union's trade commissioner, Sir Leon Brittan, have also called for a new trade round, but U.S. willingness to go along was in some doubt because of resistance to freer trade among powerful constituencies, particularly labor unions.

    A near-doubling to $4.2 billion over the next five years of the U.S. program helping to dismantle Russia's aging nuclear and biological weapons, protect facilities holding nuclear materials and create nonmilitary research projects for Moscow's former weapons builders.

    The president will emphasize that the United States and other nations should do more to decrease the threat of nuclear proliferation posed by Russia's inability to handle the growing costs of its disarmament, including such mundane things as salaries to guards as well as additional security monitoring at nuclear facilities to prevent seizure, theft, sale or transfer out of the country.

    Most of the initial funds would also enlarge a program that generates contracts for Russian scientists whose expertise is in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons so they do not work in countries unfriendly to the United States, such as Iran, that may seek to build such arms.

    Clinton will also voice hopes that the Russian parliament will ratify the long-pending START II treaty so that both countries can move on to deeper strategic nuclear arms reduction levels already agreed upon for START III. Passage appears unlikely any time soon, and administration officials regard the aid effort as the best way in the meantime to keep Russia moving along the disarmament path and minimize the danger of proliferation.

    The United States in the past seven years has spent more than $1 billion, with another $2 billion planned, to help dismantle the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.

    The $1 billion welfare-to-work program previewed yesterday is an extension of a two-year, $3 billion program begun in 1998 to help the most disadvantaged recipients get jobs. The program, designed primarily to help inner cities, is administered largely by boards dominated by representatives of private industry.

    The program has been somewhat controversial because states have millions of dollars in unused grants that could be used for welfare recipients.

    Staff reporters Paul Blustein and John F. Harris contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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