January 27, 1995 in City

Gop Pushes Tough Welfare Plan Measure Would Cut Recipients From Rolls After Two Years

Associated Press

The director of Washington’s welfare system said Thursday that she’s worried how kids will fare under the House Republicans’ plan for one of the toughest welfare-reform laws in America.

The House Children and Family Services Committee, controlled by the Republicans, is expected to endorse a measure today that kicks most welfare recipients from the rolls after two years.

It also would eliminate welfare for unwed teen mothers and would stop the practice of boosting grants whenever a welfare mother gets pregnant again.

Liz Dunbar, director of the state Division of Income Assistance, told the committee Thursday that Gov. Mike Lowry’s administration is concerned about all three of those provisions, especially as they would affect children.

“Our concern is really anything that would harm children and families,” she said.

“Certainly our department agrees with the … goal of moving toward self-sufficiency. We are concerned about the two-year cap and the family cap. We are concerned about what will happen to the children who, through no fault of their own, are left without benefits.”

The state already has an array of programs to try to help teen mothers get their high school education and “get on the right track,” said Dunbar,

Committee Chairwoman Suzette Cooke, R-Kent, said in an interview that her Republican colleagues are comfortable with the latest version of the bill. The measure is a key part of the GOP “Contract with Washington State.”

Only three states have a two-year cap, although some members of Congress are pushing it on a national level. Polls show this feature to be very popular with voters.

The panel got its first look at a new draft of the bill Thursday. Cooke’s changes, reflecting some of the criticism at earlier hearings, both makes the bill tougher by including the ban on welfare for unmarried teen mothers and liberalizes it by adding exemptions from the two-years-andyou’re-off rule.

The exemptions include all the classes of people exempt from the state’s current fouryears-and-you’re-off policy: parents who are incapacitated or needed at home to care for an incapacitated family member or a child under age 3, people who are in unpaid work-experience programs, and recipients who are willing to work but can’t find a job.

The new draft, HB1481, also adds the details about the contract the legislation would require between the welfare recipient and the state.

One of the services the state would have to make available, family planning and abortion, sparked a brief flurry.

Rep. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, a staunch foe of abortion, said the welfare office in Spokane has a Planned Parenthood branch office within its walls and has stepped over the line into “forcing advocacy” of abortion.

He conceded the new bill does not expand the current abortion policy, but said he’s concerned about how the state is implementing family planning in some areas.

Asked if he’ll try to roll back abortion rights, he said “Watch the bill introductions.” He also said the press is obsessed with watching whether Republicans attack abortion.

xxxx “Legislative action.” Here is a look at action Thursday in the Washington Legislature:

Govenor: Signed amendments to Indian gambling compacts, which increase the betting limits at tribal casinos.

Senate: No major action. Bills introduced: SB5541 that would allow first cousins to marry if the female has attained the age of 50 or if either party is permanently sterile.

House: No major action.

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