WASHINGTON – D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton Wednesday urged her colleagues to lead by example and hire welfare recipients to work in their congressional offices.
“Private employers are admonished every day to hire welfare recipients,” the Democrat said. “Congress must also do its part.”
Under the welfare reform bill enacted last year, 50 percent of single welfare recipients must be working by the year 2002, Norton said. States that fail to meet the requirement could lose up to 21 percent of their federal grants.
“The new welfare reform law raises a daunting quota for states to meet,” Norton said. “This House must lead by example.”
President Clinton on Saturday urged federal agencies to take steps to hire welfare recipients, too.
Under the House resolution proposed by Norton and cosponsored by nine others, congressmen who already employ the maximum 22 staffers would be given the authority to hire an additional full-time worker, if he or she is a welfare recipient. The worker could be hired in Washington or in a member’s home state.
But congressmen would not receive more money for their office fund, so they might have to spend less on some other office expense to cover the additional worker’s salary. Norton said many members have annual surpluses in these funds.
Reaction from Maryland members of Congress was mixed.
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, cosponsored the measure with Norton. “As employers, we all have a role – and a responsibility – in helping people move from welfare to work,” she said.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, also called it an excellent idea. He said he could hire a welfare recipient to answer the telephone, for example.
Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, endorses the idea, said spokeswoman Susan Sullam. But because Cardin has hired two welfare workers in the past, he does not plan to endorse the bill because he does not think legislation is necessary, Sullam said. -30-