NLC Wants Role in Welfare Reform Debate

Article excerpt

"NLC believes that a welfare reform proposal must do two things: identity a clear policy role for local government, and invest in our nation's human infrastructure," said President Carolyn Long Banks, speaking at a press conference in the nation's capital.

The Atlanta Councilmember cautioned that H.R. 4, the Personal Responsibility Act, which was approved by the House several weeks ago, "does neither."

President Banks told the press that "NLC and municipal leaders throughout the United States want to help bring about reforms to end welfare as we know it ... to help the Administration and Congress achieve real and lasting changes to improve and strengthen self-sufficiency, personal responsibility and family stability."

"We believe that local governments must have an opportunity to work with states to design and carry out programs that can be tailored to the needs of the local community ... state-designed plans that lack an assured role for local governments are like a set of loudspeakers barking commands' while what we really need is a network of communication and teamwork that will seek the best ways to accomplish our task," said Councilwoman Banks.

Banks also noted that NLC members are very concerned about investment, and emphasized the need to include supportive services like child care, health care, education and job training in any welfare reform proposal. "If we are serious about moving from dependence to real self-sufficiency, that's the only way to do it," President Banks said.

Kay Granger, mayor of Fort Worth, Texas expressed similar concerns about the failure of the welfare proposals to provide education, training and child care. "If we simply cut welfare and there's not an organized effort to move people into work, then they land on our doorsteps," said Mayor Granger.

Councilwoman Banks and Mayor Granger, as well National Association of Counties President Randall Franke, agreed that the onerous restrictions included in the House bill such as prohibitions on providing benefits to legal immigrants and cash assistance to young mothers and their children would shift considerable cost burdens for caring for these families onto states and local governments, and for dealing with possible increases in homelessness, medical expenses, hunger and crime in local communities. …