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Department of Health & Human Services

Monday, June 17, 2002

HHS ANNOUNCES "URBAN PARTNERSHIPS" INITIATIVE TO HELP MORE FAMILIES ACHIEVE ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced a new welfare reform initiative to help some of the nation's largest cities adopt successful programs to assist families as they make the transition from dependence to self-sufficiency. Through the new Urban Partnerships for Welfare Reform initiative, HHS will work closely with 10 cities nationwide to develop strategies to support and sustain healthy families to become economically independent. The effort will target HHS' technical assistance to promote positive changes in the lives of welfare recipients in the chosen cities. "We are trying to reach and help families in our nation's cities who face significant hurdles on their road to independence," Secretary Thompson said. "By offering intensive technical assistance to 10 large cities, we will identify and adopt successful strategies to improve their programs to help families achieve self-sufficiency." HHS will ask the nation's 57 largest cities -- those with at least 300,000 residents -- to apply to participate in the Urban Partnership initiative. Later this year, HHS will choose 10 cities from the applicants and will offer intensive technical assistance and training targeted at each city's specific needs in order to enhance the success of their welfare reform efforts. HHS initially will hold a conference to bring together key representatives from all 10 cities to identify key challenges and strategies for overcoming them. HHS then will bring local managers together to help design and implement new approaches and programs to achieve more successful job placements and to strengthen families. Since the welfare reform law creating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was enacted in August 1996, the number of people receiving assistance has fallen nearly 57 percent from 12.2 million to 5.3 million people. This new initiative is designed to reach areas where higher concentrations of welfare recipients remain. Cities working to help families achieve economic independence face special challenges, such as concentrations of deep poverty and welfare dependency in certain neighborhoods. At the same time, there are often key advantages, such as many nearby jobs and local organizations and agencies able to provide a wide array of social services -- from job training to substance abuse treatment. This initiative aims at developing partnerships to help cities build and manage better programs that result in strengthening families and getting more clients jobs. In addition to providing targeted support to selected cities, the initiative also will highlight strategies that can be used more broadly to advance the goals of welfare reform in urban areas. This year, Congress must act to reauthorize the 1996 welfare reform law. President Bush has proposed to build on the success of those reforms by making welfare even more focused on the well-being of children and supportive of families, and by renewing its commitment to work opportunities. "Welfare reform is a remarkable success, but its promise won't be fully met until we take the next step," Secretary Thompson said. "This means helping individuals gain the work experience and the skill development to climb the job ladder out of poverty. We must help them make the full transition from the dependence of a welfare check to the independence of a paycheck."