WELFARE REFORM EXTENSION ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - March 30, 2004)
Mr. BOEHNER. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of S. 2231, but I am discouraged that we find ourselves needing to pass this legislation.
The bill before us today will extend the Federal welfare law, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, for another 3 months. This is the sixth time we have come to the floor to extend this program since its authorization expired in September 2002.
The 1996 welfare reform law is one of the most successful social policy initiatives in recent memory. However, we know there is more work to be done. A majority of TANF recipients-approximately 60 percent-still are not working for benefits.
To put even more Americans on the path to self-sufficiency and independence, the House passed H.R. 4 in February 2003. H.R. 4 strengthens current work requirements by asking welfare recipients to engage in work-related activities for 40 hours a week--16 of which could be in education, job training, or other constructive activities as defined by States.
The House-passed bill would ensure that no needy family would fall through the cracks. H.R. 4 creates a policy of universal engagement so that all families receiving welfare benefits must be in work or other activities leading to self-sufficiency. The House reauthorization measure also gradually increases to 70 percent the work participation rate required by States.
Moreover, the House reauthorization bill makes significant improvements to the Child Care and Development Block Grant. It adds $1 billion in discretionary funding to the program over 5 years and requires States to devote more money to improving child care quality. These provisions will ensure that low-income parents have access to safe, quality child care as they move into work.
This week the other body is considering full welfare reauthorization. I am encouraged that the other body may soon pass its welfare reauthorization bill, and hope we will be able to resolve our differences quickly in a conference committee.
The millions of Americans still seeking to move off of the welfare rolls deserve no less. Those continuing to struggle to attain self-sufficiency need the assistance that H.R. 4 would provide.
While I hope this will be the last extension of current law we must pass, I urge my colleagues to support the bill before us today.