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Governors Slam Obama Administration’s Welfare Waiver Scheme

Despite claims to the contrary, governors from Pennsylvania to Alaska have expressed significant concerns about the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) July memorandum announcing states could waive the work requirements at the heart of the 1996 welfare reform law.

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce continues today’s markup of H.J.Res. 118, legislation to block the administration’s plan to roll back the work requirements critical to the success of welfare reform, take a moment to review the highlights of letters governors sent to the administration condemning this latest executive overreach:

"[B]y granting these waivers, HHS has overreached its authority and will in effect create a dangerous policy precedent and deter Americans from becoming more self-sufficient... We and many other states have advocated for flexibility in the HHS managed welfare programs… but this Informational Memorandum regarding TANF goes beyond any original request for flexibility." - The Honorable Sean Parnell, Governor of Alaska

"[T]he Information Memorandum released July 12, 2012… appears to be a departure from the foundation effectively laid with the 1996 welfare reform
, and appears to put much of its progress at risk." - The Honorable Janice K. Brewer, Governor of Arizona

“This weakening of work requirements for TANF, veiled as flexibility for states, harms the ability of states to empower citizens and undermines the successful TANF reforms that have been in place since 1996. In this case, I believe your Department has confused flexibility for states with a selection of bad policy choices." - The Honorable Terry E. Branstad, Governor of Iowa

"The Department's recent informational memorandum released on July 12th giving states the ability to opt-out of the very work requirements which have proven successful over the past 15 years is alarming... The work requirement was the centerpiece of the 1996 reform law and intentionally set-aside by Congress so as not to be among those items that are waiver eligible." - The Honorable Sam Brownback, Governor of Kansas

"[T]his Informational Memorandum regarding TANF goes beyond any original request for flexibility. By eliminating the work requirements, you are creating a dangerous policy precedent and deterring Americans from becoming more self-sufficient." - The Honorable Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi

"Data confirms that the 1996 welfare reform program has been a major success in helping individuals and families move from welfare into jobs and assisting in significantly decreasing child poverty rates. In Oklahoma, the welfare caseload drastically declined from 99,035 recipients in 1996 to 19,865 recipients in 2011... This victory should be reinforced through sound policies, not deconstructed to setback progress." - The Honorable Mary Fallin, Governor of Oklahoma

"Scaling back this important reform will mean disaster for those whom the program is meant to help. Caseloads will increase, which will place tremendous burden on states that are already facing difficult budget realities. Most importantly, the reforms you are proposing will trap more Americans in welfare dependency." - The Honorable Tom Corbett, Governor of Pennsylvania

"[W]e believe the Information Memorandum...undermines efforts to engage parents in productive work activities, and raises serious concerns about your Department's commitment to moving low-income families from welfare to work... As our families are struggling to support themselves, it is the wrong time for the Administration to send a message to those on public assistance that work is not important and that state officials should lower their expectations that people can and should return to the workforce." - The Honorable Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin

"The 1996 reform law has, among other things, helped individuals and families move from welfare to work. It has been most successful in our state. In Wyoming, the welfare caseload declined from 12,180 recipients in 1996 to 607 recipients in 2011... I hope you will reconsider the intentions of the 1996 TANF law and reassess your authority to waive the work requirements for TANF beneficiaries." - The Honorable Matthew H. Mead, Governor of Wyoming

To learn more about H.J.Res. 118, click here. To watch the markup currently underway, click here.


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