House Oks Welfare Plan Better Suited to Clinton Bill Pushes Jobs, Benefit Caps, State Control

Article excerpt

The House approved a bill Thursday that would turn the 60-year federal guarantee of assistance to the poor into a time-limited, work-oriented program largely run by the states.

The measure, approved 256-170, represented the House's third try. Two previous bills were vetoed by President Bill Clinton. This one was closer to what he has said he can accept, but the food stamp limits and budget savings could trigger another veto.

The bill approved by the House would:

* End a family's welfare benefits after two years unless the able-bodied head of the family gets a job.

* Limit lifetime welfare benefits to five years per family while letting states grant hardship exemptions for up to 20 percent of recipients.

* Replace four major welfare programs with block grants to states, which would get more freedom in how they spend the money.

Alternative Rejected

The House defeated, 258-168, a plan supported by the White House and offered as the Democratic alternative. It would have limited savings to $53 billion, would have eliminated the option of food stamp block grants, would have allowed children of legal immigrants to get benefits and would have allowed states to use block grant money for vouchers after parents' benefits ended.

The House also approved an amendment that would limit lifetime food stamp eligibility to three months for single, able-bodied people ages 18 to 50 who have no dependents and who fail to work at least 20 hours a week. The vote was 239-184.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said this amendment "would cause serious hardship among individuals who have been working and paying taxes for years, but who then lose their jobs and need temporary aid while they look for a new job." He said nearly 1 million poor, unemployed workers - 40 percent of them women - fall into that category each month.

Republicans said that, despite the bill's $59 billion in projected savings, the measure would result in federal spending of $578 billion on welfare over the next six years, up from $441 billion the last six years. …

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