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Rules for New Welfare Law Cite Goals for Teenage Parents

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Washington--The Department of Health and Human Services last week proposed a plan for states to follow in implementing the major overhaul of the welfare system mandated by the Congress last year.

The law requires states to create a new education, training, and employment program for welfare recipients--known as jobs, for Job Opportunities and Basic Skills.

The program specifically targets long-term welfare recipients and teenage mothers who have not completed high school.

"At a time when as many as one in four American children are born into poverty, the jobs program will be especially important in helping to break the generational cycle of long-term dependency," Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan said last week.

The program, expected to cost $3.3 billion in federal funds over the next five years, is intended to move 438,000 people off the welfare rolls.

Currently, 11 million people, primarily single mothers and their children, are receiving such assistance.

The law includes an exemption for parents with children younger than age 3 and states may opt to lower that to age 1. But teenage parents are not included in the exemption.

The regulations say that teenage parents are expected to resume educational activities "soon after the8birth" of their child.

And while the law requires only part-time participation of parents with children younger than age 6, the states will have the option to require full-time participation of teenage parents.

The regulations require teenage parents to either return to school or enroll in a program that will lead to a degree-equivalency certificate.

To qualify for federal funding for the jobs program, states must provide child-care and transportation assistance for participants.

States are given a variety of options for providing child care, including vouchers, direct payments, or state-supported child-care centers.

State job-training programs are required to be in place by Oct. 1, 1990, but states have the option to begin such programs, with federal assistance, July 1, 1989.

Federal officials said 17 states and the District of Columbia are seeking to begin their programs this year.

The department published proposed regulations for the program in the April 18 and 19 issues of the Federal Register. There is a 60-day comment period, and final rules will be published in October.

Separate regulations for changes in federal and state child-support enforcement activities as well as extended Medicaid coverage for those leaving welfare will be issued at a later date, officials said.--rrw

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