President Clinton on Tuesday issued a directive that requires mothers applying for welfare to identify the fathers of their children before receiving any benefits.
“Our system should say to mothers: If you want our help, help us to identify and locate the father so he can be held accountable,” Clinton told the American Nurses Association. “And it should say to fathers: We’re not going to let you just walk away from your children and stick the taxpayers with the tab.”
Clinton also said in his speech that the federal government will help states track parents who owe child support in other states. Administration officials said two dozen states already require or encourage employers to submit information on new employees, which state officials then use to check for child-support delinquencies.
Under the new system, that information would be sent by states to the Department of Health and Human Services, where it would be matched through a computer database to catch those who owe money in other states. The president also challenged other states to begin providing such information.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said exceptions for identifying fathers would be made in cases where mothers do not know who the fathers are and/or where there is the threat of violence.
Republicans criticized Clinton’s action, saying it would have limited impact.
Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Clay Shaw, chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources, issued a statement saying mothers already must first identify the fathers of their children to receive welfare.
“The problem is that many mothers provide just enough information to qualify for benefits, but not enough to locate the father, and the president doesn’t have the authority to correct this through executive action,” the Republicans’ statement said.
But Bruce Reed, a White House domestic policy adviser, said the procedure for identifying fathers currently begins after welfare applications are submitted.
“What we’re doing today is insisting that as a matter of regulation, that be done prior to receiving benefits,” he said.
Mothers applying for welfare also would be required to give other identifying information such as their addresses or the names of employers. Welfare applicants would be referred to state child-support agencies within two days, Reed said.