TOMMY G. THOMPSON
For Immediate Release Oct. 14, 1999
Contact: Darrin Schmitz (608) 266-9806
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES W-2 AS NATIONAL INNOVATION AWARD RECIPIENT
Wisconsin Works honored as example of American innovation
MADISON Gov. Tommy G. Thompson today announced Wisconsin Works (W-2) was selected by Harvard University and the Ford Foundation as a recipient of the Innovations in American Government Award, recognizing the nations first welfare replacement program as one of the countrys most innovative public sector programs.
Gov. Thompson said the award reinforces Wisconsins reputation as one of Americas true laboratories of democracy, devising and implementing some of the most innovative programs in the United States. Since the implementation of W-2, the number of individuals receiving cash assistance in Wisconsin has dropped by 77 percent (caseloads have dropped 92 percent since the governor began his welfare reform efforts in 1987).
"People are working, gaining self-esteem and becoming self sufficient. W-2 is empowering former welfare recipients with real choices and new opportunities to pursue their dreams," Gov. Thompson said. "Wisconsin Works is by far and away the biggest change in American social policy in 60 years, and its effects are being felt across the country and the world."
W-2 was one of 1,600 applicants and just one of 10 to be selected for the prestigious award. As an award recipient, Wisconsin will receive $100,000 to promote the replication and expansion of W-2.
The Innovations in American Government Award is administered by Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government, and sponsored by the Ford Foundation. The purpose of the awards is to bring public recognition to the dynamic quality of American government and foster the replication of successful programs by other government entities across the nation.
Gov. Thompson personally presented W-2 as a finalist to the Ford Foundations National Selection Committee, chaired by David Gergen, editor-at-large of U.S. News and World Report, and comprised of former members of U.S. Congress, former mayors, journalists and specialists in public policy. Shirley Merritt, a former welfare recipient and W-2 participant from Milwaukee, joined the governor in Washington D.C. as a presenter.
Currently, the average wage for those leaving W-2 is $7.42 an hour more than $2 above the minimum wage. A family of three earning the average wage is 30 percent above the poverty line. Compared to Aid to Families with Dependant Children, that same family was struggling at 30 percent below the poverty line.
Gov. Thompson added that W-2 represents a fundamental shift in public policy away from the callousness of maintaining the welfare culture, which had sadly become entrenched in our society.