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From Welfare to Work: Who Should We Help and How?

As with all of the NIF issues guides, three or more approaches are offered for discussion, each of which represents a different point of view.

Problem statement: Since 1996, states have been responsible for moving people off of welfare rolls and into jobs. But the results have been mixed, and states are still struggling to find the right combination of programs to help individuals and families make that transition. Most people agree it’s best if they find jobs, but not everyone has the skills to find jobs, and even people who do sometimes lack transportation or child care. As a result, many questions still confound us as we continue the transition from welfare to work.

Approach 1:  Everyone Should Work. Government should not support anyone who can work, and everyone should work as well as they can. This is a big country with a strong economy. While no society will ever reach true full employment, we have the capacity to put more Americans to work. It is not just good for the country as sound economic policy, it is good for those who would have been on welfare. It is truly compassionate.

Approach 2: Help Those Who Can’t Work. There are people in America now with urgent needs. Simply telling them to get a job isn’t helpful. Some people simply cannot work and care for themselves. We must provide the essentials for the truly needy, small children and people who are incapable of making their own way because of physical or mental impairment. They need a means to achieve dignity that they cannot achieve as workers. We don’t necessarily have to return to the old welfare system, but we must take care of those who can’t or shouldn’t work.

Approach 3. Prepare Productive Citizens. Only through renewed emphasis on education, families, and carefully selected programs for young people can we break the cycle that traps millions of Americans in poverty and dependence. We should prepare them to be productive citizens by ensuring that all children graduate from high school with at least basic skills. Adults who lose jobs should have access to retraining. Families should not lack health care, child care, transportation, or opportunities to develop parenting skills. 

Resources for the Forum:

Forum Agenda (Microsoft Word document)

Issue Book: From Welfare to Work: Who Should We Help and How? (PDF)

Issue Topics
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