Senate Republicans on Wednesday weighed in with a welfare reform package that seeks to make public assistance “a safety net, not a hammock.”
Minority Leader Dan McDonald, R-Bellevue, said nearly 300,000 Washington residents are on welfare, or about one in 20 people, and that previous “halfhearted tinkering” has done little good.
He and Sens. Jeannette Wood, R-Woodway, and Harold Hochstatter, R-Moses Lake, outline a series of bills aimed at getting recipients into jobs, training or community work, capping payments for welfare women who get pregnant, ending payments for unwed teen mothers who want to live independently, and cracking down on fraud and absent parents.
The series of bills are considered part of the dialogue between the House and Senate and members of both parties, McDonald said. The plans could dovetail with proposals being touted by House Republicans.
Welfare reform is a key item on the Republicans’ “Contract With Washington State.” House Republicans recently pushed a plan through committee that would limit most recipients to two years on the rolls and impose the payment cap for families.
Their Senate colleagues said Wednesday they may back a less restrictive plan, which calls for “ramping down” benefits, decreasing checks by 20 percent a year after the third year.
They seek to set up a 12-month residency requirement, limiting the grants to the same amount the person got in their previous home state. They want a “learnfare” program that includes incentives and sanctions.