Book of the States 2004

States’ welfare challenges are becoming more complex. As the economy weakened, caseload decline either diminished or reversed. Employment rates declined for both welfare recipients  and those who recently left welfare. More who left welfare either have returned to it or are disconnected, living without a job, welfare, or someone else who can support them. Fortunately, more who left welfare are staying connected to other government safety net supports. States’ welfare offices must combine the message of work and assessment of work barriers with a complex array of services that remediate barriers, track families after they leave welfare, and support working poor families.

Until now, the focus of states on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been on compliance. States first struggled to figure out what was required by the legislation, and then concentrated on getting the state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Now that this initial stage has past, states are turning their attention to implementation. They are now trying to understand how to incorporate NCLB into the state’s framework of educational governance, and how the legislation can be used to help the state meet its own goals for education performance.

Since its inception, members of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining have held over 100 meetings to listen to the concerns of developers, environmentalists,  federal and state agencies. The first year’s activities and accomplishments were many, mostly falling in the areas of assisting in the resolution of bottlenecks in a number of specific energy projects. In its second year, the task force continues to work on individual energy related projects bottlenecked in the system and has also begun to focus on finding solutions to more systemic issues.

The domestic competition to create and retain jobs in the sour economy over the last two years has forced states to get more aggressive than ever in facilitating economic development. However, in pursuing aggressive approaches to recruiting new companies and preserve existing jobs, state and local officials have had to contend with the ramifications of the one of the recession’s largest casualties—manufacturing.

Our agricultural programs were intended to move cash to rural areas during the Great Depression. Today, our programs make large income transfers to farmers. The rationale for this is unarticulated. Our programs could be more closely tied to the basic rationale for government’s involvement in agriculture.

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