About Welfare Reform

In the summer of 1996, Congress passed and the President signed the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996." radically transforming the nation's welfare system. Here, we link to sites that permit you to keep track of the ongoing implementation of welfare reform in the states and the continuing national discussion of the issue. we also provide an online copy of the bill, congressional debate surrounding it, and some of its legislative history.

The Institute for the Study of Civic Values is playing an important role in the implementation of welfare reform in Philadelphia.

 First, we have built a coalition called "JOIN" that brings together neighborhood, adult literacy, child care, and human service organizations to fight for public service jobs, education and training, reverse commuting, and quality child care in responding to welfare reform.

Check out what Jobs and Opportunity to Improve Neighborhoods (JOIN) is doing and see if a similar coalition is needed in your community.

ISCV has also organized a Neighborhood Work Experience Program in Philadelphia--what is now called the Community Conservation Corps--that offers hard-to-employ welfare recipients with jobs in community organizations to gain the experience needed to enter the workforce.

 Dr Jo Anne Schneider--the first Director of the ISCV program--elaborates on this strategy in a paper that has circulated widely among welfare reform practioners around the country.

In 2002, Congress must vote to reauthorize the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. For all the attention paid to the sharp drop in welfare caseloads over the past five years, there remain thousands of women and children who still must receive cash assistance under TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) in order to survive. The original bill set a five-year limit on this assistance. By the end of 2001, families will start reaching this limit-and losing their support. The real trouble that welfare 'reform' will cause has yet to begin.

 As we enter into a national debate over what to do next, the online resources that follow can provide an invaluable source of information and support.

Welfare Reform: Ongoing Implementation and Debate

The passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act sets the stage for ongoing reconstruction of welfare systems on a state-by-state basis. The debate over these issues will continue as well. Here, we offer access to sites that enable you to monitor this process.

Analyzing Poverty and Welfare

Tracking Welfare Reform

Commentary on Welfare Reform Implementation

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996

For those interested in the legislative background of welfare reform, we provide a copy of the Personal Responsibility Act, the Children's Defense Fund and Urban Institute Analyses of the bill and the issues, speeches for and against it in the Congressional debate, President Clinton's stated rationale for signing it, an American Prospect article by David T. Ellwood--who worked on welfare reform for the Clinton administration--on what happened to their initial proposals in the process, and the perspective of Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative who helped Congressional Republicans draft the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.


Welfare Reform: Legislative History, 1994-1996

Personal Responsibility Act

Even though President Clinton promised to "end welfare as we know it" in his 1992 Presidential campaign, the national debate over welfare reform did not take shape until 1994, when the original "Personal Responsibility Act" was introduced in the House of Representatives as part of the Republican "Contract With America."

Personal Responsibility Act

The Senate bill was a modified version of a bill introduced by Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas) which proposed to end welfare as an outright entitlement and is aimed at giving states "increased flexibility" to:

`(1) provide assistance to needy families with minor children;

`(2) provide job preparation and opportunities for such families; and

`(3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

The Personal Responsiblity Act Debate

The debate over the Personal Responsibility Act took place in Congress and around the country for more than a year.

These were the opening statements made by supporters of the Bill in the House of Representatives:

Republican Speeches Defending Personal Responsibility Act

Many representatives offered strong criticism of the Personal Responsibility Act in the course of the debate. Among the most forceful was a series of speeches by opponents of the Bill addressing the "causes of poverty."

Democratic Congressional Criticism of Personal Responsibility Act

The People Speak: Welfare Reform and the General Welfare

What is your own view of welfare reform? How can it "promote general welfare?" Is it fair to cut off benefits to welfare recipients when there are no jobs available for them? If we create public service jobs for all current welfare recipients, would it be fair to force welfare recipients to take them?

Here is what others who have visited this page had to say about welfare during the first two years of the new policies:

The People Speak: Welfare Reform

Send your own views on welfare reform now that we approach the first five years of the program. We will develop a new "peoples' speak" page and include them:


Tell Us Your Views on Welfare Reform

Return to the Institute for the Study of Civic Values