U.S. to issue sweeping rules to put aid recipients to work



WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration plans to issue sweeping new rules today that will require states to move much larger numbers of poor people from welfare to work.

The rules represent the biggest changes in welfare policy since 1996, when Congress abolished the federal guarantee of cash assistance for the nation's poorest children. Since then, the number of welfare recipients has plunged more than 60 percent, to 4.4 million people from 12.2 million.

For the first time, the rules set a uniform definition for permissible work activities and require states to verify and document the number of hours worked by welfare recipients.

In 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, about 32 percent of adults on welfare were working. Under the new rules, 50 percent of adult welfare recipients must be engaged in work or training in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, or states will face financial penalties. The penalties can reduce a state's federal welfare grant by 5 percent in the first year and by 2 additional percentage points for each subsequent year of noncompliance, up to a maximum of 21 percent.

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