From behind red-and-blue safety glasses, President Clinton marveled Monday as former welfare recipients made airplane parts in a hiring and training program that 2,500 companies have pledged to copy.
“When we get 10,000, we’ll really be talking turkey,” Clinton told workers at the Cessna Aircraft Co. job center. He also announced new regulations giving state and cities greater flexibility in using federal money to put welfare recipients to work.
“The best social program ever provided is a job,” the president said.
His comments came on the final day of a four-day tour dominated by Democratic Party fund raising and distractions over the standoff with Iraq. From Wichita, Clinton was headed to St. Louis for a $400,000 reception and dinner benefiting Missouri’s Jay Nixon and other Senate candidates.
Meanwhile, White House officials released new data showing that welfare caseloads dropped by 236,000 in July, the most recent month for which statistics are available, and by nearly 2 million in the 11 months since Clinton signed welfare overhaul legislation.
At Cessna, some 250 people leaving government assistance have already been trained at company expense and put to work at an average wage of $12 an hour.
Since the Clinton administration and corporate community launched their “Welfare to Work Partnership” in May, more than 2,500 companies have pledged to similarly hire and train workers off the welfare rolls.
That figure, which tops the original goal of 1,000 businesses, includes 24 of America’s 100 biggest companies in what Clinton said “has to be an American crusade.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also announced that its 3,000 local chapters will urge corporate members to hire people on welfare.
After the 1996 welfare overhaul limited the time families can spend on public assistance, Clinton pushed the private sector to pitch in - with some state and federal dollars - and help give welfare recipients the skills needed for landing jobs once their welfare checks stop.