CHN: Census Reports Rise in Poverty
Articles from September 27, 2002
- TANF Reauthorization Likely to be Postponed
With both the end of the legislative session and the September 30 expiration of the welfare reform law fast approaching, Congress is currently faced with many important decisions about the future of welfare. The short-term continuing resolution (CR) passed by Congress on September 26 extends the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) – the 1996 law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program – until December 31, 2002. Still, lawmakers must decide whether – and for how long – to extend major parts of the 1996 welfare law.
- Senate Democrats Call for Unemployment Benefits Extension
On September 25, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) – flanked by several other Democratic Senators – held a press conference to draw attention to their proposal to extend unemployment benefits to workers affected by the economic recession. The proposal will most likely be attached to other Senate legislation as an amendment, and would extend unemployment benefits by at least 13 weeks – 20 weeks in high unemployment states. Several unemployed workers also attended the press event, held in a packed Senate conference room.
- Social Security Disability Program Gets Mixed Reviews
In a hearing on Thursday, September 26, witnesses reported on both the challenges and opportunities facing Social Security’s disability programs, focusing specifically on the implementation of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. Testifying before the House Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, witness remarks focused on the legislation’s goal of removing barriers and increasing incentives for disabled individuals who are returning to or seeking work.
- Census Reports Rise in Poverty
US Census data issued on September 25 indicate that poverty increased in 2001, and with a sluggish economy and tight labor market, many predict that this trend may not let up anytime soon. The Census also reported that median household income fell 2.2 percent last year, the first statistically significant decrease in decades. Democrats in Congress used the data to criticize Bush’s economic plan. Many advocates fear that budget crises and current congressional priorities could result in less federal funds for vital domestic human needs programs, forcing poverty rates to continue to climb.
- Faith-Based Initiative Still Stalled in the Senate
While the Senate Finance Committee approved a version (S 1924) of President Bush’s faith-based initiative (HR 7) on July 16, 2002, Senate floor action is being delayed by Democrats who insist on adding language to the measure that would ban employment discrimination by religiously affiliated programs that receive federal funding. HR 7 extends Title 7 exemptions of 1964 civil rights law (PL 88-352) for religious organizations, allowing them to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring. The Senate bill strikes language allowing federally funded religious organizations to discriminate in hiring, but some Democrats are pushing for specific language banning such hiring practices before S 1924 is brought to the floor.