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House Approves Legislation to Protect Vital Welfare Reforms, Extend TANF Program

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013 (H.R. 890), legislation that will prevent the Obama administration from waiving the work requirements at the heart of the 1996 welfare reform law. Additionally, the legislation included an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program through December 31, 2013. H.R. 890 was approved with bipartisan support in a vote of 246 to 181.

“Bipartisan welfare reform helped end dependency, reduce poverty, and strengthen the income security of millions of families,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “Ignoring the heart of the law will unwind years of progress in moving families from welfare to work. H.R. 890 will block the administration’s reckless attempt to turn back the clock on welfare reform and protect policies that have helped lift families out of poverty. I urge the Senate to approve this critical legislation without delay.”

In July 2012 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a controversial memorandum to states about the TANF program that would undermine the critical work focus of welfare reform.

The HHS memorandum explains the Obama administration will grant "waivers" of work requirements for welfare recipients for the first time since the TANF program was created in 1996. This guidance is not in response to any change in TANF law, nor does it follow up on any proposal from the Obama administration that seeks to make policy changes to TANF through the regular legislative process. Instead, the unprecedented policy announcement by the Obama administration simply declares – despite specific statutory provisions to the contrary – that states may waive work requirements central to the success of the nation's welfare reform program.

Congress cannot allow the Obama administration to do an end run around the law and roll back critical reforms that have lifted millions of Americans out of poverty. That is why House Republican leaders introduced the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013.

As approved by the House, H.R. 890 will:
  • Prevent the Secretary of Health and Human Services from finalizing, implementing, enforcing, or taking any action outlined in the July 12, 2012 “guidance” that would undermine welfare work requirements;
  • Prohibit the secretary from authorizing, approving, renewing, modifying, or extending any effort that waives compliance with the work requirements of the 1996 welfare reform law;
  • Rescind any waiver granted to a state before the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act becomes law, ensuring a level playing field for all families in need of assistance; and
  • Reauthorize the TANF and related programs through the remainder of the calendar year.
To learn more about the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013, click here.

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