Patsy Mink

The Family Stability And Work Act (H.R. 1250) - March 24, 1995

Patsy Mink
March 24, 1995— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr Chairman, I rise today to speak for the millions of women and children whose lives will be deeply affected by what we do. In the name of reform, we are about to destroy the foundations which have been built over the years to build a framework of support and help. What was a reform effort has now turned into a savage effort to cut away needed funds for our most vulnerable children in order to pay for the tax cuts for the wealthiest in America. Changing the AFDC Program from an entitlement to a block grant means that you blow away its foundation of support. Changing the National School Lunch Program from an entitlement to a block grant means that you place every schoolchild in jeopardy that their school may have to drop out of the program. What good is it to say that there are funds for needy children if the schools they attend have no school lunch program at all? Changing the child care programs from entitlements to block grants means that you diminish the level of commitment to child care as the most important element required to achieve work and self-sufficiency.

The Republican attack against our efforts to build back a future for welfare families by job training, job search, and child care argues that all we do is defend the status quo. For most of this century America has stood tall as a country that helped its poor, and fed its children, and nursed its sick. If this is the status quo, I am proud to defend it because this is what I believe America is all about.

It is not about bashing women as illicit and unfit mothers. It is not about bashing legal aliens. It is not about bashing children because they were born out of wedlock.

America is about having the greatness to offer help where needed. I rise today because I passionately reject the meanness that I see and hear. I reject that the poor are less deserving of our love and affection.

The facts my colleagues is what gives me the spirit to fight back today. The facts, if you care to read, tell you that 50 percent of the adult poor on welfare work. You don't need to force them to get up everyday like you think. They struggle to feed their families. They know that they want something better for themselves. They don't need a law to force them to love their children. More than half of the adults on welfare have 4 years of work experience. They are not lazy and seeking dependency as a way of life. They are despondent because of events beyond their control, sickness, being laid off a job because of corporate downsizing, divorce, or death.

Our substitute bill that we offer is the truth about America. It acknowledges that States should have greater flexibility in designing the job training and child care programs. But we guarantee the funds with which to do it. If Federal funds are to be spent there must be uniformity throughout the Nation on such things as eligibility standards, but beyond that the States must have the ability to decide how to achieve the goals of job placement which are required in this bill.

We reward families that work by not pulling them out of essential support like food stamps, housing, and child care.

We extend support to low-income working families not on welfare, but as much in need of help, by providing them with child care services as well.

In truth, Mr. Chairman, this substitute bill which has 75 cosponsors is an expression of belief and hope which is the icon of American ideology. Best of all it demeans no one because they are poor, and it protects children and legal aliens by refusing to segregate their rights and privileges because of status, and assures stability of Federal support while allowing maximum flexibility to the States to provide for jobs, job training and child care. Yes, it cuts off support if the parent refuses a job offer, but it does not set an arbitrary time limit which could not be met either by the State or by the community. To cut off a family in need when their is neither job, nor job offer, is cruel. What will the children do to survive? Separate the siblings in foster care, in orphanages? A job must be found before any funds are cut. That is the object, isn't it? Help families find work that earns their way off of welfare. This is our goal. That is the goal of an American that cares. This is not the status quo, because there is no such goal in current law. Vote for the Mink substitute.

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