Canton Repository

May 17, 2002

Ohio lawmakers remain divided on public aid legislation 

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Ohio lawmakers split along party lines Thursday as the House passed a Republican-backed plan to increase work
requirements for public aid recipients while extending the nation’s welfare reform experiment for another five years.

“It puts more emphasis on work and it’s a follow up to the success we’ve had with the present welfare” law, said Rep. Ralph Regula,
R-Bethlehem Township.

The number of Ohioans in poverty fell to 1.157 million in 2000, a 267,000 drop since the welfare reform law was passed in 1996,
according to figures provided by House Republicans.

Regula and Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, joined the vast majority of Republican House members in voting for the bill, which would
increase the work requirement for welfare recipients to 40 hours from 30 hours.

The House passed the legislation 229-197. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, sponsored the bill, which is similar to a proposal advanced
by President Bush.

The vast majority of Democrats, including those in Ohio, voted against the legislation after failing to pass their own more liberal
version sponsored by Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

Reps. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, and Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, all voted against the bill that passed.

Strickland criticized the GOP proposal for being “punitive ... to people who are struggling to become self sufficient.”

He and other Democrats objected to raising the work requirement to 40 hours and limiting the ability to count education and training
as part of the work requirement. Democrats also criticized Republicans for not providing enough funding for child care, which they
said will be needed by mothers who spend more time working.

“Successful or meaningful welfare programs should not be concerned only with reducing the number of people who are on cash
assistance,” Strickland said. They “also should have as (their) goal the reduction of poverty within families who are doing the best
they can.”

Republicans said the tougher work requirements would spur more of the poor to get jobs.

“Today’s vote will continue to help others pursue independence,” Ney said in a prepared statement.

Regula would have preferred that the bill provide more latitude for recipients to substitute educational activities for work, he said.

But he added, “You have to encourage people to get employment. It’s not only for their self-respect but it has an impact on the
children in the house. It has to start with parents going off to work and children seeing somebody going off to work.”

The bill would continue to spend $16.5 billion a year on temporary cash assistance for the poor, while adding $400 million a year to
the current $4.8 billion provided to the states for child care.

The Democratic alternative provided more money for cash grants and child care.

The GOP version also has a “super waiver” credit for 17 states, including Ohio, which made exceptional progress in reducing their
public aid rolls since the 1996 welfare reform took effect. Those states would not have to move as many welfare recipients into work
because of their previous success.

State officials said they will continue to try to influence changes to welfare as different versions of reform move through the Senate.
As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, expects to play a role in shaping welfare legislation in that body.

“Regardless of what happens we’re going to be advocating strongly for more child care resources,” said Joel Potts, welfare policy
administrator in the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. But he added that the $400 million a year for child care that
Republicans added to Bush’s earlier proposal “is very welcome news.”