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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, July 24, 2024


May 16, 2002 – Following House passage on Thursday of a Republican version of federal welfare reform, Delegate Donna Christian Christensen said she and her Democratic colleagues hope that their concerns about the measure will be addressed by the Senate.
She said in a release Thursday from her Washington office that the bill approved in the House contains massive new mandates and additional costs to states and territories.
House Democrats, she said, favored a substitute measure which would have given allowed more flexibility. It would have required 40 hours of work a week if childcare and educational resources are available, but 30 hours of work if they are not. The substitute bill also would have removed a ban on jurisdictions serving legal immigrants, she said.
Further, Christensen said, the substitute contained language to "give the territories the tools that they need to successfully transition people from welfare to work."
She charged that the Republican bill "tightens the vise on those trying to transition from welfare to work" because it eliminates education as a work-related activity "and does not provide adequate resources for childcare." But it "doubles the amount of hours that recipients are required to work, creating more hardship for mothers with children under school age."
The "offshore territories would be negatively impacted," she said, "because of even less resources and poor economic conditions with fewer jobs within geographic limitations."
Christensen and her Guam and Puerto Rico colleagues got language into the Democratic substitute bill to make the territories eligible for supplemental, contingency, child care and foster care funding that they cannot access now. She said they are hoping to see this incorporated into the Senate bill. "If we are successful," she said, "we will be able to have funding to increase the funding per person, which is very low in the Virgin Islands, and to provide greater assistance in areas like St. Croix that are economically hard hit."
She said the V.I. Human Services and Labor Departments have done well under the 1996 welfare-to-work law, decreasing the welfare rolls by half. "However, they are having difficulty moving people into work situations, especially on St. Croix, where jobs are not as available," she said.

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