[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 38, Number 20 (Monday, May 20, 2002)]
[Pages 807-808]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

The President's Radio Address

May 11, 2002

    Good morning. Next week the United States House of Representatives 
is scheduled to debate a welfare reform plan that will touch the lives 
of millions of Americans. The last time Congress reformed welfare, in 
1996, it put millions of Americans on the path to better lives.

[[Page 808]]

    Because of work requirements and time-limited benefits, welfare 
caseloads have dropped by more than half. Today, 5.4 million fewer 
people live in poverty, including 2.8 million fewer children than in 
1996. Yet, the real success of welfare reform is not found in the number 
of caseloads that have been cut but in the number of lives that have 
been changed.
    I've traveled all across our Nation, and I've met people whose lives 
have been improved because of welfare reform. I have heard inspiring 
stories of hope and dignity and hard work and personal achievement. Yet, 
there are still millions of Americans trapped in dependence, without 
jobs and the dignity they bring. And now Congress must take the next 
necessary steps in welfare reform.
    Compassionate welfare reform should encourage strong families. 
Strong marriages and stable families are good for children, so stable 
families should be a central aim of welfare policy. Under my plan, up to 
$300 million per year will be available to States to support good 
private and public programs that counsel willing couples on building a 
healthy respect for marriage.
    Compassionate welfare reform must allow States greater flexibility 
in spending welfare money. Today, confusing and conflicting regulations 
are keeping people from getting help. My proposal would give States the 
freedom to redesign how Federal programs operate in their States. This 
will allow States to be more innovative in providing better job 
training, housing, and nutrition programs, and better childcare services 
to low-income families.
    Most of all, compassionate welfare reform must encourage more and 
more Americans to find the independence of a job. Today, States on 
average must require work of only 5 percent of adults getting welfare. I 
am proposing that every State be required within 5 years to have 70 
percent of welfare recipients working or being trained to work at at 
least 40 hours a week. These work requirements must be applied carefully 
and compassionately.
    Because many on welfare need new skills, my plan allows States to 
combine work with up to 2 days each week of education and job training. 
Our proposal allows for 3 months in full-time drug rehabilitation or job 
training, and adolescent mothers can meet their work requirements by 
attending high school. A work requirement is not a penalty; it is the 
pathway to independence and self-respect. For former welfare recipients, 
this path has led to a new and better life.
    When I was in North Carolina earlier this year, I met Ella Currence, 
a mother of four who was on welfare for 7 years. She knew change would 
be difficult, but she also knew change was best. Ella began 
participating in the State's Work First Program. She has been working 
for the last 5 years, and she put her life in order. Ella says, ``You 
can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it.'' This is the 
spirit and confidence encouraged by work.
    Everyone in America benefits from compassionate welfare reform. 
Former welfare recipients gain new hope and know the independence and 
dignity of an honest day's work. As our recovery continues, business 
will need more motivated and trained workers. Good welfare reform laws 
can break dependency and help the American economy.
    My administration has worked closely with Congress in writing the 
new welfare legislation. It's an excellent bill that will provide hope 
and promise, dignity and opportunity to millions of Americans. I urge 
the House to pass it and the Senate to then act on it.
    Thank you for listening.

Note: The address was recorded at 9:10 a.m. on May 9 in the Cabinet Room 
at the White House for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on May 11. The transcript 
was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on May 10 but 
was embargoed for release until the broadcast. The Office of the Press 
Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of this address.