With little debate or fanfare, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 4) late last week that contains detrimental changes to welfare reform for single working mothers. The bill, which passed 230-192 largely along party lines, would increase work requirements for mothers on welfare from 30 to 40 hours a week with strict limits on the amount of time spent in classes or job training – and only a small increase in child care spending, from $4.8 billion to $6.8 billion per year. In addition, the bill includes $1.5 billion over the next five years in spending on programs that promote marriage and sexual abstinence.
On Valentine’s Day, a group of “welfare brides” dressed in wedding veils gathered at a rally – sponsored by Low Income Families’ Empowerment Through Education (LIFETIME), the Oakland/East Bay Chapter of the National Organization for Women and several other women’s groups – in downtown San Francisco to protest the proposed spending, which includes cash bonuses for welfare mothers who marry. The Feminist Majority and other leading women’s rights groups have opposed programs that promote marriage because they could lead to an increase in domestic violence. As many as 60 percent of women receiving welfare have been victims of domestic violence, versus 22 percent of women in the general population, according to NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (NOW LDEF).
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week when it returns from a weeklong recess.