JEFFERSON CITY - In Wednesday's state of the state address, Gov. Mel Carnahan credited the strong economy and welfare reform as the factors in the decline of the number of people on welfare.
There's no dispute about the welfare caseload decline. During the past two years, the number of people on Aid to Families with Dependent Children has declined by about 26,000.
But there is disagreement whether government can take credit.
"It was the economy improving," said Peter DeSimone of the MO Association for Social Welfare. "The (1994) welfare reform bill has a minimal effect."
But Gary Stangler, Director of the Social Services Department, said the healthy economy and welfare reform work together.
"A healthy economy is critical," he said, adding the welfare reform bill was "the other half of the coin."
The 1994 bill - backed by Carnahan and sponsored by Rep. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico (now a member of the Senate) - established "self-sufficiency pacts" signed by social workers and welfare recipients. Under the pact, the state provides a recipient with work experience, mentoring, and parenting and child-development programs in return for the recipient agreeing to a time limit on their welfare benefits.
If people do not meet these goals in four years, then recipients are dropped from welfare - unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
But DeSimone said if the economy goes up, then the number of people on welfare go down and if the economy goes down, then the numbers rise.
Missouri's current unemployment rate stands at 3.2 percent, down from 6.1 percent in 1993. DeSimone credits this low rate with the welfare decline.