JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri welfare officials have begun working to get more than half of the state's welfare recipients into the program President Clinton cited in his recent news conference (April 18) urging Congress to reform welfare.
Clinton's administration has given Missouri authority to implement the welfare plan that had been passed by the state's legislature last year.
The plan allows the state to require a welfare recipient to sign a contract in which the recipient agrees to get off welfare in return for expanded welfare services.
The federal government had to waive several federal requirements for the program Aid to Families with Dependent Children in order for the state to implement last year's legislation.
"These waivers allow the state of Missouri to move forward with self-sufficiency pacts designed to move people off welfare and into private sector jobs within a designated time," Carnahan said.
The pacts between the state and the AFDC recipients are designed to move welfare recipients off Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits after two years.
However, if recipients can show that they have become more self-sufficient, but are not yet ready to be cut off welfare, another two years is possible.
The waivers will require parents under 18 to live at home in order to receive benefits.
Also, the state can terminate benefits if the recipient fails to comply with the pact.
A child-development component aims at giving welfare recipients' children education and care while their parents are receiving job training or are at work.
The governor says this component is unique in the nation.
"The pacts have a child development plan and they help prevent need in the future," said Gary Stangler, director of the Social Services Department. "The plan gives attention to fathers and children."
Carnahan said the plan will not require any more state employees, but House Republican Floor Leader Mark Richardsonredicted otherwise.
"This looks like more bureaucracy with new programs and, predictably, there will be requests for new FTEs (full-time employees)," said Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.
Missouri has enough money to pay for 8,000 pacts.
"This only affects 20 percent of the 55,000 people who have been on welfare over two years," said Rep. David Levin, R-St. Louis County. "It actually has very limited effect."
The waivers also would allow the state to forgive child-support debt owned to the state by non-custodial parents who are getting job training or education classes.
In addition, the state would have more flexibility in setting limits on the total value of assets a recipient can own and remain on AFDC.
For example, the state could exempt from the asset limit one automobile per household to ensure transportation is not an issue for self-sufficiency. This way recipients can have a car and still get welfare.