MAY 21, 1996
Participate in a forum on welfare reform
Follow the debate over the W-2 program with two Wisconsin legislators and two national experts.
Learn how a pilot version of W-2 worked in Fond du Lac County.
The State of Wisconsin Web site outlining W-2.
Governor Tommy Thompson's home page
Margaret Warner explains Wisconsin Works, or W-2, welfare reform program. W-2 is program created by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson that requires welfare recipients to work and, supposedly, will reduce welfare rolls.
MARGARET WARNER: When Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed the Wisconsin Works Bill last month, it was just the latest in a long string of efforts he's made to re-shape welfare in his state. The governor has succeeded in getting approval from Washington to implement several of his ideas, which are aimed at dismantling the basis tenets of the welfare system.
GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON, (R) Wisconsin: (1992): For every one of my welfare reform programs that I've put into law or was able to get waivers from the federal government there have been the critics and the nay-sayers, but they want to keep the status quo. I don't want to keep the status quo. The status quo doesn't work. Give us in Wisconsin the flexibility, the opportunity to change it, and we'll show the way for the country to follow.
MARGARET WARNER: The program that served as predecessor and role model for Wisconsin Works was an experimental one that's been carried out in two counties in Wisconsin since January of 1995. Called Work Not Welfare, the program ended the entitlement to cash assistance and gave money to participants only through work. Job training programs were offered, as well as medical and child care, and the cash equivalent of food stamps.
Welfare officials in Wisconsin say Work Not Welfare was extremely successful in the two counties, reducing the number of people on welfare by 44 percent between January of '95 and March of this year. According to state officials, the average starting wage for people in the Work Not Welfare program was between $5.75 and $7.47 an hour, considerably above the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour.
The new Wisconsin Works program would implement the pilot program on a statewide basis, in effect, totally replacing the current welfare system with one based on work. Wisconsin needs a federal waiver before it can implement this new proposal, since the program would drop many federal guarantees to the poor. The program would provide immediate work opportunities to participants, offering four types of employment:
The program would also offer child care, health care, food stamps, transportation, and housing assistance to participants and their families. A five-year maximum time limit would be imposed on most recipients. In his radio address last Saturday, President Clinton endorsed the Wisconsin Works program in concept.
- Unsubsidized employment would place qualified participants in private sector jobs.
- Trial jobs would give wage subsidies to private sector employers so they could provide work and on-the-job training for people who couldn't obtain unsubsidized work.
- Community service jobs would provide subsidized work experience and training in public sector jobs for recipients who weren't qualified for the two private sector employment options.
- Transitional training would give training and workshops and vocational rehabilitation programs to those who couldn't qualify for any of the other work options.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (Weekly Radio Address) Last week Wisconsin submitted to me for approval the outlines of a sweeping welfare reform plan, one of the boldest yet attempted in America. And I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far. Under the Wisconsin plan, people on welfare who can work must work immediately. The state will see to it that the work is there in private sector jobs that could be subsidized, if necessary, or in community service jobs if there are no private jobs available. The state says it will also see to it that families have health care and child care so that parents can go to work without worrying about what will happen to their children, but then they must go to work, or they won't get paid. If the do work, of course, they'll have the dignity of earning a paycheck, not a welfare check. The plan will send a clear message to teen parents as well: if you're a minor with a baby, you'll receive benefits only if you stay in school, live at home, and turn your life around. All in all, Wisconsin has the makings of a solid, bold welfare reform plan. We should get it done.
MARGARET WARNER: Today Bob Dole, the presumptive Republican nominee, delivered a welfare policy speech in Wisconsin. He called for many of the changes included in the Wisconsin plan and said his commitment to welfare reform was far greater than the President's.
SEN. BOB DOLE, Republican Presidential Candidate: As President, I will send real and meaningful welfare reform legislation to Congress early next year, and I will insist on its swift passage, and I will sign it. That's the difference. I will sign it. (applause) And when I say welfare reform, I mean requiring every able-bodied welfare recipient to find work within two years, or a shorter period of time if the state so desires. I mean giving the states--President Clinton I might say, on the other hand, has no means, no real program, no real work requirement until the year 2004 in the next century--and I mean giving states the ability to stop payments to unmarried teens. President Clinton's plan avoids this tough choice. And I mean a real five-year lifetime limit on welfare payments with few exceptions, and President Clinton's plan means no real limits and no real change. And I mean making certain that illegal non-citizens aren't eligible for all but emergency benefits. President Clinton's plan, once again, avoids this tough decision. But above all, and this is the one I want to underscore, I mean trusting the nation's governors with the flexibility they need to create the laboratories of our democracy. President Clinton's plan--(applause)--and again President Clinton's plan means trusting only federal bureaucrats in Washington.
MARGARET WARNER: Senator Dole also proposed to let states require drug tests for welfare mothers, and he called on states to enforce or toughen their statutory rape laws to protect teenage girls from being made pregnant by older men.