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Testimony

The Future of the Personal Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act

Ron Haskins

In 1996, thanks in large part to members of this committee, Congress passed and
President Clinton signed into law a sweeping, bipartisan welfare reform bill. Since that
time, the welfare rolls have fallen by half, the employment of mothers heading families —
especially never-married mothers — has reached an all-time high, and child poverty has
declined substantially for the first time since the early 1970s. In fact, in 2000 poverty
among black children reached the lowest level ever. Even after the recession,
employment by single mothers is still near its historic high reached in 2000 and child
poverty — including poverty among minority children — is still much lower than in 1996
when welfare reform passed. Moreover, the reforms of welfare for noncitizens, of child
support enforcement, and of Supplemental Security Income for children have had their
intended effects, savings taxpayers billions of dollars and increasing the integrity of these
programs — and in the case of child support enforcement, helping custodial mothers
achieve self-sufficiency. No policy has only positive effects, but on the whole the 1996
welfare reform law stands as one of the most successful pieces of social legislation ever
enacted.

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