Tommy Thompson on Welfare & Poverty
Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)
Replace welfare program with self-sufficiency program
[The “Wisconsin Works” program, known as “W-2”] replaced AFDC. It is an employment program rather than a welfare program. It requires those “who can work to get a job and
those who cannot to contribute according to their abilities.” The old system showered recipients with all the welfare benefits possible, thus encouraging dependency. Wisconsin Works
uses resourceful financial and employment planners who will help program participants. Planners can provide emergency loans for employment-related needs. W-2 provides participants
with child care, health care, transportation and training. February 2000 figures show the W-2 caseload is under 6,700 families. That’s a reduction of 80% since W-2 started.
Source: WI Governor’s website
Jan 8, 2001
Replace Welfare with the Tools to Succeed
Gov. Thompson made building our people - particularly the poor - an important priority. Frustrated that generations of families were being locked in a welfare trap, Thompson embarked on welfare reform in 1987, long before it became a major national issue
Before starting, Thompson invited groups of welfare mothers to his home for luncheon discussions on what locked them into welfare and what was needed to free them from the trap. The most commonly cited barriers to leaving welfare were inadequate child
care, health care, transportation and training - four elements that became the foundation for the governor’s reform programs.
Since 1987, Thompson has instituted many welfare reform programs and initiatives that have combined to reduce Wisconsin’s
welfare caseload by more than any state in the nation.
Since 1987, Wisconsin has cut its welfare caseload by more than 93%, from 98,000 AFDC families in January 1987 to under 6,700 W-2 cash assistance families in February 2000.
Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site
Dec 25, 2000
Early leader in welfare reform
Wisconsin under Gov. Thompson was the first state to: Wisconsin was so far ahead in its reforms that Gov. Thompson ended welfare and the
AFDC entitlement check altogether and replaced it with a new program based on work called Wisconsin Works, better known as W-2. This program is now the standard for welfare reform in America.
Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site
Dec 25, 2000
- Require a measure of performance from AFDC recipients in return for their checks by requiring recipients to send their children to school (Learnfare 1987).
- Stop rewarding parents for
having children they could not afford, 1994
- Make fathers more directly accountable through Children First
- Require work and time limit on benefits. (“Work Not Welfare”, 1995).
- Get its welfare-to-work replacement program approved. (1996).
first state to end the welfare entitlement and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. (1997).
- And the first state to print its last AFDC check. (March 1998).
No government handouts; demand something in return
The welfare system is a perfect example of what I refer to as government sense. When you pay people not to work, not to get married, and to have children out of wedlock, guess what happens? People do not work, they do not get married, and they have more
children out of wedlock.
Handing out a welfare check and expecting nothing in return is not public assistance, it is public apathy - “Here is your check, see you next month.” So while Washington stood around and talked about how welfare needed to be
changed, we in the states-I started in 1986-started doing something about it. We started offering hope and opportunity along with the welfare check and expecting certain responsibilities in return. We put common sense reforms in place. We required young
men and women up to age 19 to go to school; and in the case of chronic truants, we took away that portion of the welfare check attributable to that young man or woman. Some opponents said, “What if they don’t want to go to school?” And I said, “Tough.”
Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.205-6
Aug 12, 1995
Supports block grants to foster state experimentation
Now I am undertaking the most radical program I have ever done in welfare-we are eliminating it. We did away with the welfare department and turned it into a jobs department. Everyone has to do something in order to receive a check.
In order to accomplish these things we had to go to Washington and kiss someone’s ring to say, “Please give us a chance to try something that might work.” I have had waivers under Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
Why should states need waivers to try innovative ideas in welfare? Why should we have to go to Washington and kiss somebody’s ring to do what everybody wants us to do and that is to change welfare in our society and give people jobs and hope and optimism
That is why I am fighting for the government to block grant welfare funding back to the States.
Source: United We Stand America Conference, p.207-8
Aug 12, 1995
Support LIHEAP, low-income heating assistance.
Thompson signed the Midwestern Governors' Conference resolution:
Source: Resolution of Midwestern Governors' Conf. on LIHEAP 00-MGC2 on May 25, 2000
- WHEREAS, The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) enables states to assist low-income households in meeting critical heating and cooling needs; and
- WHEREAS, More than two-thirds of households eligible for LIHEAP have annual incomes under $8,000, making LIHEAP a targeted, cost-effective way to help low-income citizens pay their home energy bills; and
- WHEREAS, Households served because of LIHEAP include the most vulnerable populations in our states ? the elderly, disabled, and young children; and
- WHEREAS, LIHEAP provides a foundation upon which the Midwestern states have built community-based energy assistance programs and has permitted us to leverage state and local dollars to meet the needs of our citizens; and
- WHEREAS, In past years, funding for LIHEAP has been substantially reduced, and any new funding cuts will impede the states’ ability to meet the energy needs of low-income households; now therefore be it
- RESOLVED, That the Midwestern Governors’ Conference encourages Congress to renew its support for LIHEAP and maintain funding in Fiscal Year 2001 at or above the level appropriated for the program in Fiscal Year 2000.
Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010