The Dual Agenda: Race and Social Welfare Policies of Civil Rights Organizations

The Dual Agenda: Race and Social Welfare Policies of Civil Rights Organizations

The Dual Agenda: Race and Social Welfare Policies of Civil Rights Organizations

The Dual Agenda: Race and Social Welfare Policies of Civil Rights Organizations

Synopsis

What is the role of race in social policy? Have race-based programmes failed? Should welfare and civil rights be blind to colour?

Excerpt

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a welfare bill drastically changing the public assistance system that had been the law for sixty years. the new law no longer required the federal government to provide cash assistance to all eligible low-income mothers and children. Instead, the states would receive a stipulated lump sum (block grant) to run their own welfare and work programs, and they could determine largely how those capped funds would be spent. the federal law stipulated that the head of most welfare families work within two years or lose benefits. No family could receive aid for more than five years over a lifetime. Creating jobs for the needy would be a state responsibility.

In addition, the new law reduced a state’s block grant by 5 percent if 25 percent of the state’s welfare recipients do not work at least twenty hours a week. However, the law does not define the term work. the states will have to grapple with this problem. Restrictions were placed on unmarried welfare mothers under the age of eighteen: they had to attend school and live with an adult parent or guardian in order to receive assistance. a mother with a dependent child under age five is exempt from working if affordable child care is unavailable. States also could deny cash assistance, health care, and other social services to noncitizen, legal immigrant families. Further, federal benefits to low-income disabled children were to be reduced over a six-year period.

A strong supporter of Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid and a civil rights activist in the 1960s, Rep. John Lewis (D, Ga.) called the new law “mean” and . . .

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