Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. As
the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and
Families in the Department of Health and Human Services, I am
pleased to appear before you today to provide an overview of the
Department's implementation of the new welfare reform
legislation--the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act of 1996.
The Administration for Children and Families is responsible
for administering several of the programs most affected by this
historic legislation, including: the new temporary assistance
program for needy families; the child care programs for families
on welfare and other low-income working families; and the child
support enforcement program.
In my testimony today, I will spend much of my time
addressing implementation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) program, as requested by the Committee. I would
like to also briefly discuss the new child care provisions and
will defer discussion of the child support enforcement provisions
until Thursday when you will be devoting an entire hearing to
that topic. Since the legislation was signed by the President
only 26 days ago, I want to focus most on the process we have
undertaken to facilitate implementation. Because of the bill's
early effective dates and the extraordinary interest throughout
the country in moving forward on welfare reform, officials at all
levels of government are very busy. At the federal level,
officials from the numerous departments affected by this
legislation are working together to ensure coordinated assistance
to the states.
In the few weeks since enactment, we have had numerous
conversations with many of our State partners. These
conversations have made it clear that there is much work to be
done by all of us to ensure that implementation of this new law
results in welfare reform that indeed encourages work, promotes
parental responsibility, and protected; children.
State Implementation Activities
States have been given a tremendous amount of flexibility
under this welfare reform legislation to design a program which
provides assistance to needy families and helps them to find jobs
and become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. Because State
plans can be filed at any time prior to July 1, 1997, most States
are currently sorting through the complexities of the bill and
the variety of options and opportunities available to them. In
some cases, they are struggling to determine the statutory
expectations. In addition, many studies are anxious to implement
the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provisions as soon as
possible because most states will benefit financially from an
In the midst of tremendous time pressures, states are doubly
challenged to make sure that their programs are thoughtfully
planned. The legislation presents the opportunity for them to
explore new administrative arrangements and to develop new
linkages with other service delivery systems. It also presents
them with the opportunity to develop a more integrated and
individualized approach to serving needy families. We are
advising states that they may adjust their programs and submit
plan amendments as they move further along in the implementation
The Changing National Perspective and the New Federal Role
While much of the action has indeed shifted to the states, we
are working hard both in Washington and in our regional offices
to help the states and tribes achieve a smooth and effective
transition to these new programs.
The legislation provides us with a great opportunity to make
welfare a transitional system, rather than a way of life. We can
reward states for their success in moving people from welfare to
work, not merely for how well they get the checks out. Many more
parents can participate in work opportunities and obtain the safe
and healthy child care they need to protect their children while
they go to work.
We are at the center of a major transformation in the nature
of the federal-state partnership. States now assume primary
responsibility for ensuring that the welfare system works.
States have the authority and the flexibility to design programs
which meet their individual needs. The legislation gives them
much more opportunity to respond creatively and individually to
the highly diverse needs of their children and families.
In return for this new authority and flexibility, the
legislation holds states more accountable for program
performance. It includes a variety of provisions -- on
penalties, performance-based funding, data collection and
reporting, and research and evaluation -- designed both to ensure
accountability and promote performance.
At the federal level, we will be, monitoring state
performance and program implementation. Among our first
responsibilities will be to review the new TANF plans to ensure
that they are complete -- that they include the necessary
certifications and descriptions of how the state will serve needy
families, help them move into work, and provide for fair and
equitable treatment. These plans are a critical tool-- both in
terms of ensuring that states are focusing on the issues that
need to be decided as they design their new programs, and as a
mechanism for informing the citizens of each state about how, and
to whom, services will be provided under these new programs.
Later, as required by the new statute, we will be ranking
states according to their performance, identifying and studying
the high performers and low performers, providing an overall
assessment of the legislation's impact on children and families,
and tracking child poverty. We will work to ensure that the new
programs help families get quickly trough the hard times back
into the mainstream of society. We also monitor what is
happening so we can identify any potential harmful effects.
One of our other major roles will be to administer the
financial reduction provisions found in the new section 409 of
the Social Security Act. Under these provisions, we will be
focusing on state compliance with a number of key statutory
requirements, including child support enforcement, data
reporting, participation rates, and Maintenance of effort. Here,
we will be working, in consultation with our State partners, to
clarify the expectations on the states, and the availability of
good cause exceptions, etc. In this way, we will be able to
ensure that any financial reductions are applied consistently.
We will also assume major new responsibilities for compiling
and disseminating information. As tie number of program options
available to states grows exponentially, states will need more
and better information about the implications of their choices.
The new law gives us tools we need to develop such information.
We look forward to working with the states in employing these
tools and sharing what we learn with partners.
Finally, we will have a much expanded role in working with
tribes, who can now decide to implement their own cash assistance
programs. While the legislation seems to present tribes with
tremendous new opportunities to exercise their sovereignty and
serve their own people, tribal representatives have expressed a
number of concerns about the potential impact of this
legislation. Many tribes have indicated that they may not wish
to make a final decision about applying to participate in TANF
until states reveal their TANF plans, Thus, it may be some time
before we know the extent of tribal Participation in this
Our Earliest Activities
Over the past several weeks, we have been working very hard
to ensure that we are in a position to meet our responsibilities
under the legislation and to facilitate implementation of the
bill at the state and community level. one of our first
priorities has been to disseminate Information on the amounts of
TANF and child care funds that states and tribes can receive and
how they can access that money. Thus, we prepared and
distributed allocation tables for both child care and TANF, and
have sent out instructions on how to apply for the FY 1997
"mandatory" child care funds. In addition, we distributed for
comment a draft guide which states could use to develop their
Because the new child care provisions have an effective date
of October 1, we have made it a priority to provide guidance
immediately. Within one week of enactment of the bill, letters
were sent to all state welfare commissioners and state Child Care
and Development Block Grant lead agencies outlining a simplified
process under which states can begin receiving funding in order
to be able to operate a more unified child care system.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act also created a new, integrated child care
program under the Child Care and Development Block Grant. This
program unites three child care funding streams in a way that
validates the early effort of many states to construct a unified,
seamless child care system out of multiple programs that often
had conflicting rules. This program offers an unparalleled
opportunity to serve children and their parents for whom child
care is a critical element in family growth, stability and
At the same time, we have entered into numerous discussions
with state and tribal officials, and their representatives, to
learn about their major concerns and questions. With my regional
office staff, I have participated in Conference calls with
officials from every state; several key members of my staff and I
participated in the national APWA/NGA/NCSL meetings last week in
Washington; we will be participating in all the upcoming regional
APWA technical assistance meetings. in addition, we sponsored our
own meetings with state child call administrators last week; and
we will be sponsoring a major meeting with tribal leaders later
Through forums, program instructions, and other vehicles, we
are working to address the most critical questions and concerns.
Because of the bill's complexity and the hundreds of questions
which it has evoked, we are focusing on the questions which
affect state implementation decision and deferring response on
some of the others. And we are identifying operational and
technical issues which might be addressed through legislative
proposals, program guidance or other avenues.
As we deal with some of the most pressing issues, we are also
working to refine our implementation plans and schedules. These
activities help us ensure that other important provisions of the
bill are not neglected, and they help us cope with our shifting
workloads and responsibilities.
HHS is committed to the successful implementation of this
legislation. We will provide the leadership necessary to ensure
that the legislation gets the attention it is due as states work
on the myriad details of program design and implementation.
We are also committed to working with our state and tribal
partners to ensure that the information we gather will serve
their needs and help promote the goals of the legislation. We
will consult with them extensively as we work to develop data
collection and information requirements and regulations,
performance measures, and research and evaluation strategies.
Through this process, we will strive to ensure that the changes
that result from this legislation are positive and work for the
good of children, families, and communities.
I will be happy to answer your questions at this time.