FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MELINDA SHELTON, 202-331-0066 x767
The National Organization for Women today announced its support for legislation, sponsored by Sens. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), to clarify the status of welfare recipients under the hardship exemption of the new welfare law. Because of the very real danger of increased violence that many women on welfare will face when they attempt to become more independent, this clarification is essential and we urge Congress to pass it immediately.
"For a woman who is already in danger, enforcing the new rules would be like making her stand on a trap door -- knowing it could drop out from under her feet at any time. Without these temporary waivers, states will be putting battered women at even greater risk of brutality," said Kim Gandy, NOW's Executive Vice President.
The legislation makes it clear to states that they will not be penalized for temporarily exempting battered women, and that those exemptions will not be counted against the state's 20% hardship exemptions. As states proceed to implement their new welfare programs under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, it is imperative that Congress give states guidance on this question.
The hardship exemption, provided for in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193), allows welfare recipients to be exempted from the five year lifetime limit on benefits in cases where the limit would cause undue hardship. Advocates for battered women recognize that this was an inadequate provision considering that the number of potential applicants among this group alone could total more than 20% of a state's caseload. Recent studies of recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the old welfare cash assistance program, show that about one-fifth of women receiving federal assistance are currently experiencing violence from a partner. Up to 65% reported having experienced domestic violence at some point in their adult lives. Batterers often attempt to keep women from education, job training and employment by refusing transportation or child care services, or giving them a severe beating before job interviews. Stalking and harassing of women on the job are other methods of interference. As many as 49% of the low income women studied in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois indicate that intimate partners had interfered with their with education, training or work.
Information was compiled by the University of Michigan Research and Development Center on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health and the Taylor Institute, Chicago, Project for Research on Welfare, Work and Domestic Violence. See report, Trapped by Poverty, Trapped by Abuse: New Evidence Documenting the Relationship between Domestic Violence and Welfare (April 1997) at http://www.umich.edu/~socwk/trapped/.
Return to NOW Home Page / Join NOW / Search NOW site / Send mail to NOW