Agencies' welfare-to-work efforts ahead of schedule

amaxwell@govexec.com

The federal government has hired nearly 3,600 welfare recipients in the last year and is 36 percent of the way toward meeting President Clinton's goal of hiring 10,000 people off the welfare rolls by the year 2000, Vice President Al Gore announced Thursday.

"We're way, way, way ahead of schedule," said Gore, who heads the president's Welfare-to-Work initiative. "We owe many thanks to department heads, agency heads and federal employees who have helped to bring this about. It's been something that's really boosted morale."

The Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Information Agency, the Executive Office of the President and the Treasury Department have already exceeded their hiring goals set for 2000. OPM leads the pack, having hired 37 welfare recipients, or 148 percent of its commitment. USIA has hired 25 welfare recipients (125 percent of its commitment) and the Executive Office of the President has hired 7 (117 percent). The Treasury Department has hired 493 former welfare recipients.

"We've really made welfare a second chance, not a way of life," Gore said.

In an attempt to expand the initiative, Gore also asked federal agencies to urge their contractors to join the Welfare to Work Partnership.

"I am asking every federal agency to encourage their contractors and suppliers to recruit, mentor and train welfare recipients, and help us speed our efforts to move people from welfare to work," Gore said.

"In today's downsized government, we work closely with the private sector, so it's only logical that we expand our welfare-to-work initiatives," OPM director Janice Lachance said.

United Airlines Vice President Jerry Sines said hiring former welfare recipients "is extremely worthwhile for the business foundation of any company." At United, Sines said, the retention rate of welfare-to-work employees is twice as high as that of other entry-level employees.

"You truly get good people," he said.

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