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Letter to the Nation's Governors on Welfare Reform

February 06, 1987

Dear Governor:

In my 1986 State of the Union Address, I charged my Domestic Policy Council to present me a strategy to meet the financial, educational, social, and safety concerns of poor families. I took that action because I did not know anyone in America who believed then, or believes now, that the current welfare system is working for families in need. The sad truth is that, despite our best intentions, the welfare system is failing; the system traps people in a cycle of dependency that robs them of dignity. We can and must do better.

Restructuring our welfare system must be a top national priority, but it is clear from 20 years' experience that no single policy mandated from Washington can solve this problem. Our goal instead must be to establish a process that allows states and communities to implement their own anti-poverty ideas based on their own unique circumstances. The Federal government must retain its current level of financing, but individual states and communities can best find the solutions to welfare dependency that will work best among their citizens and in their neighborhoods.

Many governors have already broken new ground with creative and unique approaches. I applaud those efforts, and want to begin a process to encourage many more of these state and community-based reform efforts.

I invite you to join me at the White House on Monday, February 23, during the National Governors' Association Winter Meeting in Washington, to share your recent experiences and ideas on reducing welfare dependency and poverty in your communities. Together we must persuade Congress to provide you the tools necessary to create a better life for Americans in need.

Enclosed for your review is a copy of "Up From Dependency," my Administration's report on the welfare system, and its companion volumes. The report describes the crucial role you can play in our proposed national strategy. I hope you will review it in preparation for our discussion, and I look forward to seeing you later this month.



Note: The letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 7. The original was not available for verification of the content of this letter.

Ronald Reagan, Letter to the Nation's Governors on Welfare Reform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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