There was vigorous debate leading up to the enactment of the landmark welfare reform law in 1996, and there will undoubtedly be continuing spirited debate as Congress approaches the deadline to reauthorize that law by October 2002. Although there is general agreement about important successes from welfare reform, such as increased employment among low-income single mothers and reductions in child poverty, there are also lingering challenges and concerns about families that are not faring as well. As Congress, the new Bush Administration, states, and a variety of other stakeholders get ready for reauthorization, diverse viewpoints will surface. To preview some of these perspectives and arguments the Brookings Institution’s Welfare Reform & Beyond initiative, with the generous support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is pleased to sponsor a forum of distinguished individuals debating welfare reform’s track record and its implications for the future.
Some will argue that the welfare reform successes to date prove the law is working, and should be renewed with only minor adjustments. Some will even argue for cutting funding in light of historic caseload declines. Others will emphasize the challenges faced by families who have left welfare but are struggling to make ends meet, by families approaching welfare time limits who are not equipped to enter the workforce, and by families whose fragile place in the work force may be threatened if the economy slows down.
The purpose of Welfare Reform & Beyond, a two-year Brookings initiative, is to synthesize emerging welfare reform research, make it available to policymakers, the press, and the public in “user-friendly” formats, and promote civil and informed debate on the successes and shortcomings of the welfare reform legislation during its first five years. The project will also identify possible improvements to the current system of income-tested benefits for the poor. Particular attention will be devoted to strategies for helping low-income families who are working but remain below the poverty line.
Sponsored by the Brookings Institution’s Welfare Reform & Beyond Initiative
and the Annie E. Casey Foundation