"Compassion and a sense of community -- two of America's greatest strengths throughout history -- tell us we must take care of our neighbors who cannot take care of themselves.
"But everyone realizes that when it comes to welfare, government is not doing the job well. Too many of our welfare programs are inequitable and invite abuse. Worse, we are wasting badly needed resources without reaching many of the truly needy."
President Ford's approach to social programs emphasizes better delivery of services, less red tape through putting more control into state and local hands through block grants, and more help for those who are in need but none for those who don't need it.
In the last two years, despite major economic difficulties, President Ford has undertaken many actions designed to provide better, more efficient social services. The President:
President Ford has recognized that an election year is a difficult time in which to try to make massive and sweeping changes in the inefficient welfare system. But he strongly believes that the improvements he has undertaken and proposed are needed urgently now.
Meanwhile, he has ordered a careful study of alternatives for really comprehensive welfare reform.
President Ford's proposed Financial Assistance for Health Care Act would consolidate Medicaid and 15 categorical Federal Health programs into a single $10 billion block grant to the States.
The President's proposal is designed to overcome some of the most serious defects in the present system of Federal financing of health care and to permit States to meet their citizens' health needs more effectively. The program would:
President Ford is a strong supporter of Federal action to help provide a healthy diet to children whose families are not able to do so,
In a special message to Congress on March 23, 1976, requesting enactment of the Child Nutrition Reform Act of 1976, the President said:
"I believe that the Federal govenrment [government] has a responsibility to provide nutrition assistance to those most in need.
"At the same time I believe that existing Federal taxpayer subsidies for the meals of children from families able to feed themselves extends that Federal responsibility beyond the appropriate point.
"In addition, under existing law, the 15 programs enacted into detailed legislation with the same objective -- feeding needy and non-needy children -- have resulted in a patchwork of complicated federal controls and regulations."
Without the reform proposed by the President, recent Congressional changes soon will require the Federal government to be spending more money on non-needy children than on the needy children. Children from all families, regardless of income, are now eligible to receive Federal subsidies for school lunches. At the same time, it is estimated that at least 700,000 children from poor families are receiving no nutrition benefits at all.
The reform legislation urged by the President would:
Unless Congress passes the President's reform proposal, more than $660 million will be used in the 1977 fiscal year to subsidize students from families with annual incomes in excess of $11,000 -- far above the poverty level.
In a special message to Congress on February 23, 1976, urging prompt passage of his proposed Financial Assistance for Community Services Act, President Ford said:
"This proposal is in keeping with my philosophy of reducing unnecessary and burdensome Federal restrictions while increasing State and local flexibility and responsibility in the administration of social programs."
The legislation proposed by the President would:
President Ford prodded Congress again to pass the community services reform legislation in a special message on July 22, 1976, urging prompt attention to the "unfinished agenda of legislative business."
Food Stamp Reform
President Ford's determined efforts to reform the Food Stamp Program to concentrate benefits on those with greatest need and to eliminate form [from] the program those who are not in need have been blocked by the Democrat-controlled Congress and by court action.
The President has proposed reform legislation to Congress twice, most recently October 20, 1975. Since Congress did not act on his proposal, last February the President directed the Secretary of Agriculture to proceed administratively and to carry out the reform through changes in the regulations. Implementation of the proposed regulations issued on February 27, 1976, has been delayed by a court challenge.
President Ford again called on Congress for action in a special message on July 22, 1976, In an earlier statement, the President declared that "each day that goes by without enactment of the reforms which I have proposed costs the taxpayers more than $3.25 million."
The reform legislation proposed by the President would:
Aid to Families with Dependent Children
President Ford has urged Congress to simplify administration of Aid to Families with Dependent Children Act (AFDC) -- one of the biggest welfare programs that has been much abused.
A major objective of the legislation proposed by the President is to eliminate ineligible persons (either because of fraud or error) from this program and focus Federal funds on the most needy.
The President's proposal -- which he prodded Congress on July 22 to enact after long delay -- includes provisions to:
The purpose of the Work Incentive (WIN) program is to help those receiving AFDC benefits become self-supporting through going to work.
The amendments proposed by the President would:
"This Nation's handicapped citizens have a right to live with self-reliance with the same dignity as all of their fellow citizens," President Ford said in his announcement on November 22, 1975, of the first White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals.
The President said he was looking forward to the Conference's recommendations as a step toward helping handicapped persons "realize their full capacity as human beings" and "achieve higher levels of personal and professional fulfillment."
A 28-member National Planning and Advisory Council will direct preparations for the conference, scheduled to be held next May.
In his State of the Union Address the President announced two recommendations in his FY 77 budget that will help the disabled:
And, April 28, 1976, the President issued an executive order on Nondiscrimination with Respect to the Handicapped in Federally Assisted Programs. The purpose of the executive order is to provide for consistent implementations within the Federal Government of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974.
President Ford believes there is a need for a rationalization of our current collection of programs designed to assist the poor. In an era when we have come face to face with the fact that government's resources are limited we must find a simpler more responsive and accountable means of helping those in need.
In his State of the Union Address on January 19, 1976, the President said about welfare that:
". . . government at all levels is not doing the job well. Too many of our welfare programs are inequitable and invite abuse. Worse, we are wasting badly needed resources without reaching many of the truly needy. Complex welfare programs cannot be reformed overnight. Surely we cannot simply dump welfare into the laps of the 50 States, their local taxpayers or private charities, and just walk away from it. Nor is it the right time for massive and sweeping changes while we are still recovering from a recession. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of improvements we can make."
And, May 3, 1976, in Birmingham, Alabama, the President said:
"I have never believed that a guaranteed annual income was the answer to any of our problems. But, that doesn't mean under any circumstances that I am in agreement with out [our] present welfare program. When you add up all of the welfare programs we have, including food stamps, I think it is a mess and something has to be done about it."
Ford Administration Actions
In his State of the Union Address on January 19, 1976, the President asked Congress for Presidential authority to tighten up rules for eligibility and benefits.
The President will submit later this year the "Income Assistance Simplification Act," legislation granting him authority to adjust various income assistance programs to make these programs more consistent, equitable, and efficient. All changes proposed under this authority would be subject to review and disapproval by the Congress.
The proposed Income Assistance Simplification Act will include:
On April 30, 1976, in Lubbock, Texas, the President said:
"We are in the process right now, at the highest level in HEW and other affected agencies, trying to decide whether you can really sufficiently improve a hodge-podge program or whether you ought to go to something like a family assistance program.
"After the end of this study -- which probably will be completed the latter part of December -- we will make a decision. But at the moment, I don't want to pre-judge exactly what our approach ought to be.
"I can assure you that we are going to try to put the emphasis, number one, on helping those who are in need, period. Number two, we are going to try and have a work incentive part of the program, which I think is basically sound. We are going to, if we could, consolidate the many programs that we have that, really, I think, don't help the beneficiary but actually frustrate the beneficiary.
"So those are some of the guidelines that we are trying to use in making a final determination."
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