WASHINGTON – Rep. Steny Hoyer joined House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt Thursday in criticizing a Republican welfare plan they said hurts states financially and fails to emphasize the importance of work.
“Welfare must become a step up, not a step down. Welfare reform must reconnect recipients to the world of work,” said Hoyer, D-Prince George’s, at a Capitol Hill press conference.
The GOP proposal, approved by a House subcommittee Wednesday, turns over most of the nation’s welfare programs to the states, lumping federal aid into block grants.
It also requires 2 percent of welfare recipients to work by 1996, increasing to a maximum of 20 percent by 2003.
Rep. E. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., chairman of the House subcommittee that approved the plan, defended it. “Republicans want to make able-bodied people find dignity through work if they are able to work,” he said.
However, Democrats said the proposal’s minimal work requirements show the Republicans only care about moving people off the government dole, not into work.
The Democrats also criticized funneling numerous federal programs into block grants, which would be frozen for five years. They said in times of recession, when more people would need government help, not enough money would be available to help them.
Hoyer said Maryland could lose $10 million under the Republican proposal, but did not specify under what time frame the money would be lost.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates Maryland will lose $255 million in five years under the GOP plan.
Dianna Rosborough, spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening of Maryland, said in a telephone interview he supports the flexibility block grants will give the state.
“The loss of money is a concern, but the governor believes that by operating a more efficient, effective program, block grants may be better,” Rosborough said.
The elimination of some federal bureaucracy will make up for the loss in funding, Rosborough and Republican proponents said.
Hoyer emphasized the need for reform, because the welfare system is at odds with the traditional values of most Americans. “It has created an incentive for certain individuals not to assume responsibility for their actions,” he said. -30-