Welfare waivers give states a choice

September 19, 2012 | Olivia Golden

The airwaves in battleground states this campaign season are filled with static and noise about welfare waivers. To understand why waivers are a good idea that could chart the next round of welfare-to-work reforms, consider how state welfare programs have changed since 1996's welfare overhaul.

As an assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under former President Clinton, I oversaw the transition of the decades-old cash assistance Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. At its birth, TANF gave states flexibility to design work-focused programs and held them accountable through results-oriented performance measures and bonuses for exemplary outcomes. Combined with a booming economy and other policy changes that helped mothers go to work, such as the earned income tax credit and more money for child care assistance, these reforms reduced poverty and increased employment.

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