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'Moral' Ratings for Welfare Plans to be Urged by Panel

November 13, 1986|LEE MAY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A Reagan Administration panel studying welfare reform will recommend that all federal agencies file statements showing not only how their welfare policies would improve economic conditions but also how they would keep families together, Administration sources said Wednesday.

The recommendation--designed to encourage policies that strengthen families morally, as well as financially--is to be outlined today at a news conference by the Working Committee on the Family.

'Family Fairness'

Sources said the impact statements, to be called "family fairness statements," are expected to be approved by the White House and become a central element in the Administration's long-awaited proposals for overhauling the federal welfare system.

The statements would be required for "any new initiative" coming out of a federal agency, one source said. However, it was not clear how such initiatives would be rated under this proposed system.

If the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed to allow poor people to buy their apartments, according to an example offered by one source, the statement would be rated favorably.

However, the positive effect of any proposals would be weighed against any negative impact they might have on other families, including those who are not on the welfare rolls but, as taxpayers, presumably would shoulder at least part of the financial burden for the programs.

"What we have to consider is what message will our policies send to middle-class families," one Administration official said.

Influential With Reagan

The committee, headed by Education Undersecretary Gary Bauer, is said to be influential with President Reagan, and its recommendations are expected to form the foundation for Administration welfare proposals in the President's final two years in office. Its recommendation could be implemented by an executive order or a presidential letter to agencies, one source said.

The recommendations of Bauer's group focus on the Administration's broad effort to establish a climate in which moral concerns take on increased value while, at the same time, engendering economic well being.

Bauer's group is one of three select Administration panels that have been studying welfare reform. One of the other two panels will address the relationship between the federal and state governments, and the third will explore specific remedies for poverty, including block grants, vouchers and "workfare" plans.

One Basic Question

The Bauer panel's recommendation is designed to answer one basic question, according to a source: "Will any new policy strengthen or erode the family?"

Although the recommendation asks other questions, such as whether a proposal lessens household income, one source said that the impact on the family is the major question posed by the group.

"The President could reject most of it, but, if he accepted this one, it would be more significant than all the others," the source said.

The report deals also with issues involving taxes, housing and illegitimate births.

With new tax and immigration legislation enacted, the Administration has let it be known that social welfare reform is the next big issue it will tackle.

Its entire package of proposals is expected to be ready by the first of the year, when the new Congress begins work.

But, with Democrats now in control of both houses, the Administration is likely to have a harder task than ever passing legislation that diminishes the federal role in social welfare.

The Census Bureau reported last August that 33.1 million people, or 14% of the nation, were impoverished, not statistically different from the 33.7 million in poverty a year earlier.

Laying Groundwork

While the Administration lays the groundwork for its reform proposals, both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are doing the same.

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