Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs
“First and foremost, [welfare reform] should be about moving people from welfare to work.” – President Bill Clinton, August 22, 1996
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 11, 2012
Courtesy of the Committees on Ways and Means and
Education and the Workforce.
Sixteen years ago, a Republican-led Congress worked with a Democratic president to fix a broken welfare system. President Bill Clinton rallied the nation to “end welfare as we know it” and his call to action was well founded. Under the old system, 65 percent of families were dependent on welfare for an average of eight years or more, and individuals obtained welfare benefits for an average of 13 years throughout the course of a lifetime. Due to a lack of focus on work, failed welfare policies left families trapped in a cycle of dependency and poverty.
In response, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PL 104-193). The law replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant program. The bipartisan law promoted work as a central focus of helping low-income families achieve self-sufficiency. Individuals were required to work, prepare for work, or look for work as a condition of receiving public assistance. In the years following passage of the 1996 bipartisan welfare reforms:
These facts highlight the success of welfare reforms that should be strengthened by Congress.
Despite moving millions of Americans off government dependency and into a job, welfare reform is now under attack from the Obama administration. A memorandum released on July 12, 2012 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allows states to seek a waiver from the work requirements central to the success of welfare reform. Under the guise of state flexibility, the president is unilaterally weakening efforts to assist needy families. Flaws with the Obama administration’s waiver proposal include:
Congress cannot allow the Obama administration to circumvent the law and roll back critical features of welfare reform. That is why House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), along with Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) introduced a resolution that will block the administration from implementing its controversial waiver scheme.
According to a recent survey, more than 80 percent of the American people support the work requirements at the heart of welfare reform. These reforms have raised earnings, lowered poverty, and reduced government dependence. H.J.Res. 118 ensures this progress is not undermined by President Obama’s misguided executive overreach.
# # #