TOMMY G. THOMPSON
State of Wisconsin
CONTACT: Kevin Keane (608) 266-811
Jim Malone (608) 266-1683
GOVERNOR THOMPSON UNVEILS END TO WELFARE
RACINE--Marking the end of the automatic welfare check, Governor Tommy G. Thompson today unveiled his proposal to scrap AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and replace it with "W-2--Wisconsin Works," a program that ' I end the welfare entitlement and "will provide plenty of help but not plenty of free cash" to participants.
"No other state has ever eliminated AFDC before," he said. He noted that if Congress moves to shift responsibility for welfare to the states, "others will look to Wisconsin as the model for effectively helping people escape poverty through a block grant system.
"Under W-2, the moment a person applies for welfare, that person is going t go to work," the Governor said. He noted that the new program assumes everyone is capable of some level of work. He added that W-2 is an appropriate name "because this revolutionary new program will emphasize work--and most working people receive a W-2 statement of wages. A W-2 is also a symbol of independence, and that's what this program will aim for independence through work."
The Governor said the philosophy behind W-2 includes some radical changes in thinking about welfare recipients:
*For those who can work, only work should pay.
*Everyone is able to work--or at least is able to contribute to society through work activity within one's abilities.
*Both parents--whether or not they live with their children--are assumed to be equally responsible for their children's care.
*Pride in work and self-sufficiency must be emphasized.
*We should abandon our assumptions about government's traditional role in managing social programs, and look to the best possible service providers to help achieve our objectives.
"The people of Wisconsin care about families in need," the Governor said. "Under W-2, responsible parents will have the means, the opportunity and the incentive to meet their obligation to their children.
"Work and personal responsibility are the key themes of W-2," Governor Thompson said. "Our dramatic achievement in reducing the welfare rolls demonstrates what these themes can produce." He noted that since 1987 Wisconsin has reduced its welfare rolls by 27 percent, while most of the nation has seen increases in enrollment.
Under W-2, cash assistance will not be available without work. "The automatic welfare check is history," the Governor said. "In its place will be a comprehensive package of work options, job training, health care and child care services--and even financial planning."
There will be four work options available: first, unsubsidized employment, which is the ideal option. Those W-2 participants who are job-ready will be matched up with the best available job.
Also available will be subsidized employment, or "trial jobs." Individuals without a work history but with a willing attitude will be placed in jobs where an employer is given assistance in offsetting some of the costs of training and trying out a new employee. The wage subsidy will have limited duration--from six to nine months.
"Community service jobs" will be available for those who need to practice the work habits and skills necessary to be hired by a private business. These positions will also have limited duration--six to nine months. Each participant will have a lifetime limit of 24 months of community service jobs (the limit may be extended r certain circumstances).
The last option is "W-2 Transitions," which will be reserved for those who legitimately are unable to perform self-sustaining work even in a community service job. To receive cash benefits, participants under this option will work in activities consistent with their abilities.
The Governor noted that W-2 is also designed to address the problem of teen pregnancy. "In the past, too many long-time welfare recipients started on welfare as teen parents. We have to break the cycle of dependency earlier," he said.
Under W-2, minor teen parents who cannot live at home or with a legal guardian will not be allowed to set up their own household with cash assistance. Three options will be available for those minor parents not living at home: live in foster home; live in a group home; or as a last resort for older teens, live in a supervised independent setting.
In 1993, Governor Thompson signed provisions that would sunset Wisconsin's AFDC program on January 1, 1999. "We intend to beat that schedule and have W-2 operational in 1997," the Governor said. He noted that W-2 is the product of numerous attempts to obtain input. "I would like to thank the many citizens and organizations that have contributed so much to the creation of W-2. We received a tremendous amount of valuable input and suggestions on issues ranging from child care to job skills. Without such help we would not be able to this dramatic break with the past."
W-2 will be part of the employment and training system operated by the future Department of Industry, Labor and Job Development. Scheduled to begin operation in July 1996, DILJD will implement and administer the W-2 program. "The new department will have a jobs and employment focus, and will provide the ideal setting for Wisconsin Works," the Governor said.
Under the new department's direction, multi-disciplinary Job Centers will be the service delivery engine for W-2. Job Centers provide "one-stop shopping" job placement and training services at the local level for all people seeking work.
"W-2 is by far the most ambitious social undertaking this country has seen in decades," Governor Thompson said. "The program will be fair to participants and children but also fair to taxpayers. It's designed to more carefully reflect our societys values--values which are clearly absent in today's welfare program.
The Governor said he expects to have the final W-2 package put before the Legislature at the start of the fall session. "We look forward to working with the Legislature to move this important program forward," he said.