According to Thomas Guevara, assistant secretary and CIO of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Welfare reform is a trial by fire of local government. "Welfare reform will be a major test," he said, "as to whether public assistance can be effectively provided at the local level, and whether communities are able to take responsibility for their citizens."

The test will be formidable. Larry Singer, research fellow with Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in the January issue of Government Technology that reform "replaces AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, places time limits on assistance, and, in most cases, requires work in exchange for benefits. The government programs to be reformed," he explained, "have annual expenditures of over one-third of a trillion dollars."

In this section, Guevara, Singer and five other experts answer our questions on how passage of the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," will affect state and local government agencies, information systems and staff.

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Question 1:

What do you see as the greatest potential danger or opportunity of welfare reform as enacted?

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Question 2:

Is any current state's welfare reform program a model for other states to emulate?

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Question 3:

What effects will reform have on state and local governments' deployment of information technology?

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Question 4:

How will welfare reform affect ongoing human services IT projects such as SACWIS and child support enforcement applications?

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Question 5:

Do you expect a net benefit or loss of categorical "enhanced" federal funding for state IT human services systems? Why?

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Question 6:

How will welfare reform change the role of systems integrators and other private-sector IT vendors?

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Question 7:

What should be the role of public-sector IT leaders in developing federally mandated human services plans?

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Question 8:

Do you think welfare reform will lead to a national/ centralized database to verify eligibility? If so, who should maintain it?

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Question 9:

What technology or policy innovations might be stimulated by reform?

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Question 10:

What result would best indicate to you the success or failure of welfare reform? What do you predict will happen?

Ann Buchanan

is vice president of Unisys Corp.'s Public Sector Social Services Practice. Her organization consists of 250+ professionals, many of whom have extensive experience managing state government human services programs. The practice also includes consultants with expertise in designing and implementing automated human services systems. She has held various positions in sales and marketing in her 15-year career at Unisys, many of which were involved with public sector human service agencies.

Bradley S. Dugger

is chief of information systems for the state of Tennessee, and a former president of the National Association of State Information Resource Executives. His interest in welfare reform activities comes under two categories: 1. Timely implementation of systems, and 2. Models for future federal grant activities. The role of his division is to ensure that the technical resources and needs of the department are met, and that the projects put forth by the departments are cost-effective and open to all state departments.

Thomas Guevara

is assistant secretary and CIO of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which is responsible for implementing the state's welfare reform efforts. As CIO, he and his staff are responsible for determining the impacts of welfare reform with respect to determining data reporting requirements, determining information that must be shared with other programs and agencies, and developing computer systems to support welfare reform changes. In order to do his job effectively, he considers it a must to be able