In Welfare's Wake

tshoop@govexec.com

President Clinton has ordered agencies to try to help welfare recipients get a new kind of check from Uncle Sam--a paycheck for a job in government.

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Clinton gave federal departments and agencies 30 days to come up with plans to hire welfare recipients who will be forced off the rolls under a law signed by the President last August.

Since signing the welfare reform law, the President has urged private-sector companies to hire those who will no longer be eligible for welfare to keep them from slipping into poverty. In his address, Clinton said "the national government must do its part and set an example."

"Our national government is the smallest it's been in three decades," said Clinton, "but it is still the nation's largest employer. We must do our part."

Clinton put Vice President Gore in charge of implementing the new initiative. He said agencies' plans for hiring former welfare recipients must include three elements:

  • A list of the positions and categories of positions for which the agency can most easily hire welfare recipients.
  • A detailed description of how the agency intends to recruit and hire welfare recipients.
  • A description of how the agency will assist welfare recipients, once they are hired, to perform well and keep their jobs.
Indeed, said Clinton, agencies should help all low-income federal workers by making sure they take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit and by giving them help in finding transportation to work and arranging for child care.

Clinton's order encourages agencies to use a 29-year-old program that allows them to quickly hire low-skilled people and give them on-the-job training. The program, according to a Washington Post report, is rarely used by agencies; only 120 people were hired under its auspices last year.

White House officials said they hope agencies will now take a renewed interest in the program. Nevertheless, several experts told the Post that it's unclear whether President Clinton's initiative will have much of an impact on hiring former welfare recipients. Budget and staff cuts have increased competition for federal jobs at all levels, and caused agencies to cut back on training programs.

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