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Clinton Touts Welfare Reform

President Clinton is touting the success of welfare reform.

During a visit to Chicago Tuesday, the president will cite new figures showing all 50 states have met their target for moving people off of public assistance.

The figures also show fully one-third of those still on welfare either have jobs now or are preparing for them. Meanwhile, the administration has met or exceeded goals for opening jobs to ex-recipients - both in the public and private sectors.

The 1996 welfare reform bill, which Mr. Clinton signed, ended six decades of guaranteed federal aid to the poor. It imposed new work requirements and handed welfare largely to the states.

Administration officials say the proportion of welfare recipients who are working is four times higher than when President Clinton took office in 1993.

Nationally, the percentage of welfare recipients with jobs rose from 7 percent in 1992 to 27 percent last year. The rest fulfilled their requirements by seeking work, or pursuing education or training.

According to figures released Sunday by the White House, Oregon had the highest employment rate, with 98.2 percent of welfare recipients working at least 20 hours a week during 1998. Montana was second with 78.3 percent, followed by Wisconsin with 64 percent, Iowa with 56.9 percent and Wyoming with 55.3 percent.

The lowest rates were reported in Maryland and South Carolina, each with 12.7 percent; North Carolina with 14.5 percent, New Mexico with 15.9 percent, Pennsylvania with 19.3 percent and Arkansas with 19.4 percent.

The welfare law requires that 30 percent of families receiving aid have one parent who holds at least a part-time job. In 41 states, 75 percent of two-parent families are required to have both parents working.

The two-parent work rates were lagging in 1998, the administration said. Of those 41 states, only 28 met the work requirements.

The Administration reported last December that the required 25 percent of welfare recipients were working in 1997.

States that fail to meet the work requirements are subject to financial penalties, even though shrinking welfare rolls have caused $4 billion in federal welfare funds to go unclaimed at the Treasury Department.

However, if a state's welfare caseload has dropped by 25 percent since 1995, then its welfare-to-work requirement also is reduced by 25 percentage points, meaning only 5 percent of recipients must hold jobs.

Critics say most of the drop in welfare rolls has been due to a surging economy. And they say finding jobs for those who still lack them will be extremely difficult.

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