Bush calls for increased welfare work rules
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Saturday urged Congress to approve his plan to increase work requirements for welfare recipients, saying the program could get the majority of recipients into jobs within five years.
During his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush said his administration has worked closely with Congress to revamp welfare, and he praised the welfare overhaul passed in 1996.
"Today, 5.4 million fewer people live in poverty, including 2.8 million fewer children than in 1996," Bush said. But he said states now require on average only 5 percent of adults who receive welfare to work, he said.
Bush said his plan focuses on getting 70 percent of welfare recipients on the job or in job training for at least 40 hours a week by 2007. He said "a work requirement is not a penalty. It is the pathway to independence and self-respect."
In general, the White House supports tougher work requirements than Democratic leaders, who cite concerns such as a lack of assistance in paying for increased child care. But Bush also said that states should have the flexibility to allow recipients to fulfill the work requirement in other ways.
The Republican plan allows states to combine work with up to two days of education and job training each week. Adolescent mothers can meet their work requirements by attending high school: The program also allows for three months of full-time drug rehabilitation or job training.
The president defended his overall push for tougher job requirements by saying new reform laws "would break dependency and help the American economy."
The president's plan also aims to support "stable families." His proposed legislation provides up to $300 million per year to states to fund private and public programs which "counsel willing couples on building a healthy respect for marriage."
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives will vote on the changes in welfare next week.
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