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Welfare, Work and America’s Governors

Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri explains how the Administration's actions on welfare were directly in line with those requested by former Governor Tim Pawlenty and other Republican governors.

This morning, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appeared on ABC and discussed the letter he signed (pdf) along with 28 other Republican Governors asking for more flexibility administering programs that move Americans from welfare to work. Here’s what he said:

“Governors like me and other Republican governors wanted more flexibility generally, but no -- none of us wanted to waive or dismantle the work requirement within the landmark welfare reform legislation of the 1990s. And it would be very easy for the president to clear up this controversy. If he's saying he's not as part of his directive going to rescind or undermine the work requirements, then just clarify that part of it…”

We agree with Governor Pawlenty: no one wants to waive or dismantle the work requirement within the landmark welfare reform legislation of the 1990s. Secretary Sebelius made clear in a letter to Congressional leaders that Governors could have more flexibility operating their welfare programs only if their plans move more people from welfare to a job. And she reiterated that any proposals from Governors that undermine the work requirement would be rejected. Here’s what she said:

“The Department is providing a very limited waiver opportunity for states that develop a plan to measurably increase the number of beneficiaries who find and hold down a job.  Specifically, Governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work  compared to the state's  past performance.  States must also demonstrate clear progress toward that goal no later than one year after their programs take effect.  If they fail, their waiver will be  rescinded.  And if a Governor proposes a plan that undercuts the work requirements established in welfare reform, that plan will be rejected.”

Moving more Americans from welfare to work is a goal we all share and the Administration’s proposal will maintain a strong work requirement while giving Governors the chance to implement programs that put more Americans back to work.