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Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Florida.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of this amendment.
In 1996, the Congress came together in a bipartisan way to change the incentive structure in our basic cash welfare program that helps needy families. The results were nothing but a success. Within 5 years, welfare caseloads fell by more than 60 percent, and the economic prospects of many former welfare families were substantially improved. America saw increased earnings by low-income families and significant reductions in child poverty. The incentives were right, and even in the depths of the worst economic turmoil of a few years ago, the reforms were succeeding at moving families from dependency into work.
Those changes made in welfare reform resulted from a foundation laid before 1996 in which States experimented with different approaches to determine which ones were the most effective at increasing workforce participation and boosting earnings. Prior to enactment of welfare reform, States had been given waivers of the old law to become laboratories of innovation.
The amendment by Mr. Southerland before us today builds on that successful approach and will give States the opportunity to test whether the same successful strategies that were used in cash welfare programs in the 1990s will help food stamp recipients gain and retain employment and boost their earnings today. Mr. Southerland's amendment provides for a pilot program, which will allow States, if they choose, to apply the TANF work requirements to their able-bodied working age adult food stamp caseload.
States have come forward asking us for the ability to enter into these demonstration projects. But unless we adopt the gentleman's amendment, these States won't be able to launch these demonstration projects.
This amendment is well crafted and takes into consideration the availability of child care for mothers with young children and hardship situations like families facing domestic violence.
The Southerland amendment also tells States that if they're successful at increasing work participation and families' earnings among the food stamp caseload, they will share in the savings that would otherwise end up in the hands of the Federal Government.
If enacted, this amendment will help reduce Federal expenditures, provide assistance to the States, and most importantly it will help struggling families who find themselves relying on public assistance to get back on their feet.
Right now, many American families are struggling, and the SNAP program is in place to help these families who find themselves in dire economic circumstances. While this program is an important part of our safety net, our overriding goal should be to help our citizens with the education and skills they need to get back on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their families.
I'd like to thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Southerland) for his work on this issue, and I urge my colleagues to support his amendment.
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