To the editor:
As the process of renewing the 1996 welfare reform law heats up, Congress seems inclined to compound the weaknesses of the law while, at the same time, refusing to build on its strengths.
We know that significant numbers of people have moved from welfare to jobs in the last few years. For many, this has provided a welcome step up on the ladder of opportunity.
For too many, however, the step has been in the wrong direction. People forced off welfare without adequate job skills and training have found themselves mired in unstable, low-wage jobs, unable to meet their families' most basic needs.
Congress is apparently open to the administration proposal to dramatically increase work requirements for welfare recipients while denying them adequate access to training and education programs, two of the most reliable predictors of long-term employment success. Polls show that the administration's view is out of step with the U.S. public, which overwhelmingly supports providing welfare-to-work families with these important tools, as well as with child care and other needed supports.
We can and must do better. Congress should act now to ensure that welfare-to-work families have the tools they need to become independent. That is the true measure of welfare reform success.
GUY E. PALMER