Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today issued the following statement to mark the 10th anniversary of welfare reform. A fact sheet on important steps that Democrats are pushing to ensure hard-working Americans are not left behind in poverty is below.
“On the tenth anniversary of welfare reform, we must do more than look back at the past. Together, we must look forward to the future and use this moment as an opportunity to change course to take America in a new direction. Today, on the ten-year anniversary of welfare reform, Democrats renew our pledge to ensure that Americans who work hard and play by the rules never have to live in poverty.”
Raise the minimum wage. It has been nine years since Congress increased the minimum wage. Today, a full-time minimum wage earner, working eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, all 52 weeks in the year, takes home just $10,712 pre-tax – which is almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. (Department of Health and Human Services, 1/24/06) The minimum wage, after adjusting for inflation, is at its lowest level since 1955. (USA Today, 7/24/06) Democrats recognize that minimum-wage earners deserve a raise and have proposed increasing the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. This would mean a raise for 6.6 million workers who currently earn less than $7.25 per hour.
More child care assistance. Many states cannot meet the demand for child care subsidies, which is forcing qualified families to remain on waiting lists. The Republican budget reconciliation bill, enacted earlier this year, failed to include the child care funding needed to ensure that funding keeps pace with inflation and at a far lower level than what CBO estimates states will need to meet the stiffer work requirements in the same bill. (Center for Law and Social Policy and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/18/06)
Promote strong child support. One of the less frequently mentioned successes of welfare reform has been improved child support enforcement. However, the Republican budget reconciliation bill cut funding for child support enforcement. Because of this cost-cutting measure, CBO estimates that $8.4 billion in child support that would have been collected over the next ten years will go uncollected instead. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12/20/05)
State flexibility to address barriers to work. Many welfare recipients face significant barriers to employment, such as physical and mental-health problems, limited education, and responsibilities for caring for a child with a disability. States need to have enough flexibility with work participation requirements to address the individual needs of welfare recipients and the underlying causes of their difficulties entering the workforce.