WASHINGTON, September 29, 2003 ( –  HHS Secretary Tommy G.  Thompson has announced the award of $100 million in bonuses to four states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands for achieving the nation’s largest decreases in out-of-wedlock births between 1998 and 2001. Maryland, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and the District of Columbia will each receive a bonus of about $19.8 million, while the Virgin Islands will receive $888,500. In order to receive the bonuses, the top states also are required to show a decrease in their abortion rate between the most recent year and 1995. The abortion rate is measured as the number of abortions divided by the number of births.  “Reducing out-of-wedlock births can have a strong, positive impact on the lives of our children, and these bonuses recognize progress toward that goal,” Secretary Thompson said. “We encourage all states to continue to develop comprehensive programs, including those that stress abstinence, that will have a positive effect on encouraging marriage and the formation of stable families.”  The out-of-wedlock birth rate fell 5.5 percent in the District of Columbia; 2.4 percent in the Virgin Islands; 2.0 percent in Colorado, 1.9 percent in Texas, .27 percent in Maryland, and .25 percent in Wyoming.  This is the fifth award of bonuses for reductions in out-of-wedlock births, as provided in the welfare reform law of 1996. Under the law, the annual bonuses are awarded to as many as five states and three territories that have the largest reduction in the ratio of out-of-wedlock births to total births. HHS’ National Center for Health Statistics compiles the birth data based on records submitted by the states and compares the proportion for the most recent two-year period to that for the preceding two-year period.  “Improving child well-being is the overarching goal of President Bush’s welfare reauthorization plan, and by helping parents develop and sustain healthy marriages we can do much to improve the quality of life for many children,” said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D. assistant secretary for children and families. “I would encourage the winning states and territories to use these funds to promote the benefits of healthy marriage and responsible parenthood.”


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