A Publication of WTVP

President Bush recently joined the Welfare to Work Partnership and its board of director companies and business partners at a ceremony at the White House. The ceremony celebrated the progress of the Partnership and its initiatives within the national Welfare to Work program.

The Partnership is a national nonprofit organization created by the American business commu-nity to educate and encourage companies to hire and retain former welfare recipients. The Partnership was started in 1997 with five founding companies (Burger King, Monsanto, Sprint, United Airlines and UPS) and has grown to include more than 20,000 companies that have offered more than 1.1 million jobs to former welfare recipients.

On hand were Partnership board executives as well as U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

During the meeting, the businesses discussed the challenges of their welfare to work initiatives with the president. They described the innovative programs created from within their companies, including the BizLink Network, a grant-based initiative that helps businesses train and hire recipients; the Law Project, which trains recipients for entry-level positions in legal firms; and Manpower’s TechReach, which trains recipients in certified IT careers and places them in local IT positions.

The Partnership was accompanied by individuals directly affected by their welfare to work initiatives. These former welfare recipients represented the successes of the Welfare to Work program. These individuals who overcame extraordinary circumstances to leave welfare and enter the workforce, shared their journeys with President Bush.

At the ceremony, President Bush saluted the people who left public assistance and the business leaders who helped them. The president stated business leaders have a responsibility to their communities and challenged them to give back by hiring people off of welfare. They responded by unveiling the Opportunity to Work Campaign, the business perspective of welfare reform—where policy meets practicality.

The president used the ceremony to advance his welfare reform agenda. President Bush is pushing the agenda because the 1996 Republican-led overhauls in federal welfare laws will soon lapse, so Congress is rewriting them.

Whether you side with one view over another, one thing is sure—the progress of welfare reform has proven to be a success. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Some of the arguments state there are still too many former recipients making annual wages below the poverty level, and many of the positions available are short-term positions. These are valid arguments. But they do not merit the opinion the program is a failure.

Surely former welfare recipients who have been trained and gained experience in various business practices, and who find themselves among the many looking for jobs, are better prepared to succeed than the recipient who is at home waiting for the next government check. IBI