Congress members urged to hire welfare recipients Morella, Norton introduce bill to expand staffs

March 13, 1997|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Constance A. Morella of Maryland joined Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia in urging colleagues to hire welfare recipients in their own offices.

Norton and Morella, along with eight other members, also said Congress should set an example by passing legislation requiring all congressional offices to hire at least one welfare recipient.

The bill, introduced yesterday, would increase the cap for congressional office staff from 22 to 23 people to allow members of Congress to hire one full-time employee who receives welfare benefits.

The bill does not call for increasing a member's budget for staffing because many members of Congress are not now using all the money allocated to them, Norton said.

"I am proud to join in sponsoring legislation that will allow the U.S. Congress to participate in this effort in a practical, day-to-day way," said Morella, a Montgomery County Republican.

Norton, a Democrat who has no vote in the House, said she introduced the legislation in response to last year's welfare reform law that requires welfare recipients to be self-sufficient within two years. By the end of this year, 25 percent of all welfare recipients must be in work programs or states could lose part of their federal funding. But, Norton said, many recipients do not get the work training or experience they need to stay off welfare.

"Most welfare recipients get off welfare within two years by themselves. The problem is they usually get back on," she said. "A full-time position would allow me to train [a] worker."

Said Morella: "The Congress has encouraged private companies to hire welfare recipients, and the president has encouraged fed- eral agencies to do so as well. As employers, we all have a role -- and a responsibility -- in helping people move from welfare to work."

Sue Fitzsimmons, Baltimore Department of Social Services spokeswoman, said Congress is moving in the right direction.

Fitzsimmons, whose agency hires welfare recipients, said, "I have found [they] have been very motivated and very willing to learn." This legislation, she added, "may inspire others to do the same."

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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