SECOND PHASE OF WELFARE REFORM - MOVING FAMILIES UP THE CAREER LADDER TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY

WHEREAS, Congress is scheduled to reauthorize The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) which provides block grants to states under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, by September 30, 2002; and

WHEREAS, TANF reauthorization must: provide incentives to acquire skills, invest in youth, encourage strong programs to promote family responsibility for the non-custodial parent, support a system that encourages a single access point for families through the One-Stop system and fully fund supportive services essential to obtaining and retaining a job/career; and

WHEREAS, more needs to be done to support the TANF goal of improving the well-being of children; and

WHEREAS, early exposure to work experience and youth development activities has a proven powerful impact on future success in the workplace and is especially important to youth growing up in poverty and on public assistance; and

WHEREAS, the majority of those left on welfare are young including single mothers under age 24, are the hardest- to- serve concentrated in the nation's cities, and have multiple barriers to employment including no high school diploma or GED, non-English speaking, disorders such as substance abuse, mental illness, severe learning disabilities and little or no work history or skills; and

WHEREAS, while an increasingly disproportionate number of those remaining on welfare live in cities and has increased due to the declining economy, there is a need for bringing TANF resources closer to welfare recipients in cities and to design and deliver services best suited to the local area and the local economy; and

WHEREAS, many families leaving the rolls either remain unemployed or work only sporadically, and most who have jobs are still poor, while many families are going without the services and resources needed to transition from welfare to self-sufficiency; and

WHEREAS, most people working who have left the TANF rolls are in entry level, low-paying jobs making less than $8/hr with an average yearly income of approximately $13,000/year; and

WHEREAS, the probability of long-term success in the labor market is strongly related to the level of educational attainment and skill level of the worker; and

WHEREAS, the Welfare-to-Work program was created as necessary compliment to the TANF program to provide Mayors with a direct role in using highly targeted funds to move long-term recipients with multiple barriers into work and now in the second phase of welfare reform, the need for targeted funds is even more pronounced; and

WHEREAS, with the sunset of the Welfare-to-Work legislation, cities will be left without a significant block of funds for their established Welfare-to-Work infrastructure, while still faced with huge numbers of those still on welfare living in cities; and

WHEREAS, Mayors know that a mix of work, training, education and supports based on individual needs and the local labor market is the most effective way to move a person into self-sufficiency; and

WHEREAS, the local workforce investment system under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the TANF system can leverage resources for their shared customers while adhering to their distinct roles to accomplish the common goal of a skilled workforce; and

WHEREAS, the current fragmented system has not met the needs of employers for a qualified workforce; and

WHEREAS, local elected officials and their local WIBS are in the best position to develop and deliver comprehensive local workforce strategies, including strategies to move TANF recipients into the workforce and provide retention and advancement services to meet the needs of the individuals and area businesses; and

WHEREAS, the workforce system has the infrastructure, business leadership and expertise in developing programs to meet skills training needs; and

WHEREAS, Mayors believe that locally run programs are the most effective in reaching the intended individuals, particularly programs that are effective in putting people into the workforce; and

WHEREAS, Mayors oppose the President's superwaiver provision in his welfare reform proposal and the House passed bill (HR 4737) which contain a proposal to grant sweeping authority to the Executive Branch to waive, at a governors' request, most provisions of law governing the operations of a range of low-income and other domestic programs including the Food Stamp program, child care, adult education programs, homelessness programs, public housing and job training; and

WHEREAS, Mayors are very concerned that states will have serious difficulty in meeting the President's proposed 70 percent participation rate by 2007 which is more than double the current national participation rate of 30 percent and that states may only be able to meet these requirements by creating workfare programs; and

WHEREAS, Mayors are very concerned that the President's proposal of a 40 hour work week with a mandatory 24 hours of work per week and a maximum of 3 months of training and education in every two years, will severely limit state and local flexibility which is central to TANF; and

WHEREAS, many workers who have been impacted by the events of September 11 and the current recession are workers that recently moved from the welfare system. Many workers are receiving a portion of some cash assistance, which is counting towards their five-year time limit,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls upon the nation's governors to recognize the differential impact that welfare reform efforts are having in cities and urges governors to reinvest TANF surplus dollars back into the TANF system in order to focus on employment and training services for welfare recipients in cities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for additional funding of at least $1 billion similar to Welfare-to-Work to be directed to cities and local areas with large concentrations of people remaining on welfare using a formula reflecting the concentration of those remaining, the greater concentration of poverty, the higher cost of servicing welfare recipients with multiple barriers and the need for longer-term assistance; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that state and/or county plans must use TANF funds for employment, training and retention-related programs and must describe in their plans how they will function as a mandatory partner to the One-Stop system under WIA and provide funds which would flow through the WIA area to support such a system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that local chief elected officials and their workforce boards should be given the capacity, flexibility and responsibility to develop workforce programs for their local area that address the employability needs of TANF recipients and the needs of employers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly supports locally run programs for putting people into the workforce; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to exclude the superwaiver provision from the final welfare reform bill and to recognize that current waiver authority in WIA provides governors ample opportunity to work with local elected officials to enact waivers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that TANF reauthorization include education and training activities that address the removal of barriers to work including literacy, basic skills training, job readiness, substance abuse, mental health, addressing criminal records, count toward the work participation requirement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for TANF reauthorization to maintain the current 50 percent participation rate and should include incentives for states to narrow the education and skills deficits identified in welfare recipients; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to include funding for a transitional jobs program in TANF reauthorization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the workforce system and the TANF system leverage resources for shared customers- adults and youth - to provide them training to move them up the career ladder to self-sufficiency; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that TANF reauthorization should explicitly list youth development activities such as summer youth employment, job training, education and enrichment to make it clear that such activities are an appropriate use of TANF funds. In addition, funds should be made available to local WIBs and their Youth Councils to be coordinated with WIA youth funds to support summer youth work experience programs and year round youth programs which encourage school completion and occupational skill development, career awareness, and job and career advancement in conjunction with one-stop centers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that state TANF plans should identify funds to spend on education, training and employment activities for non-custodial parents, including assistance in debt repayment, and should fund national demonstration grants that support the development and enhancement of local models connecting the TANF, judicial, education and workforce systems; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that with the current unemployment rate at 6 percent nationally, and higher than that in many places in the country, especially cities, and the slow recovery of the current recession, Congress should provide national and/or state triggers, which would relax the five-year time limit and increase TANF grant levels during economic slowdowns so that work supports and other programs do not have to be dismantled to funnel more funds into cash assistance.