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 protects 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 states are anxious to
implement the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provisions as soon as possible because
most states will benefit financially from an accelerated implementation.
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
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 through the
hard times back into the mainstream of society. We will 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 the 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 our 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 program.
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 TANF plans.
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 selfsufficiency.
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 care administrators last
week; and we will be sponsoring a major meeting with tribal leaders later this month.
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 decisions 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
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.