Welfare Reform: Work Requirements for Food Stamps

Background: First created in the late 1930s as the Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal aid program that provides food-purchasing assistance for low-income families and individuals. SNAP is the second largest mean-tested welfare program in the U.S., providing more than 45 million individuals with food-assistance at a cost of $83.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 alone.

Problem: Welfare programs, including food stamps, should be temporary, limited in size and scope, and assist those truly in need. But over the past two decades the program has grown out-of-control, both in cost and in the number of individuals receiving benefits. The number of food stamp recipients has increased from around 17 million in 2000 to more than 45 million in 2015, all while costs have risen from $20.7 billion to more than $83 billion during that same time frame.

The goal of any welfare program should be to increase self-sufficiency by helping individuals find a job, provide for their family, and escape the cycle of poverty. As President Ronald Reagan so elegantly put it:

“Welfare needs a purpose: to provide for the needy, of course, but more than that, to salvage these, our fellow citizens, to make them self-sustaining and, as quickly as possible, independent of welfare. We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

If we accept how President Reagan defines welfare success, the food stamp program has clearly failed. Perhaps most concerning is the number of able-bodied Americans without children who are now hooked on the program. Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield highlight this concern in their 2016 paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“In recent years, the most rapidly growing group of food stamp recipients has been able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs are adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. In 2014, nearly five million ABAWDs received food stamps each month; few are employed. ABAWDs who receive food stamps should be required to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits.”

Solution: In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency.

Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits. These reforms were popular and successful as welfare caseloads dropped “by over 50 percent, employment of the least-skilled single mothers surged, and the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families dropped rapidly to historic lows.”

Legislative Solution: Congress should build on the success of the 1996 welfare reform by applying similar principles involving work requirements to SNAP. At a minimum, Congress should enact work requirements for ABAWDs as a condition to receive food stamp benefits. Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-LA) recently introduced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996) that would do just that.

This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work. This reform was included in both President Trump’s FY2018 budget request as well as the House GOP’s FY2017 budget, and it has been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success.

Call to Action: Heritage Action has endorsed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 and urges Sentinels to contact their members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. If passed and signed into law, this legislation would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for individuals dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Garret Graves’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017

This week, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996). This legislation would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, and restore families by strengthening the effective and popular work requirements for all “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs) who receive food stamps from SNAP.  

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency.

Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits. These reforms were popular and successful as welfare caseloads dropped “by over 50 percent, employment of the least-skilled single mothers surged, and the poverty rates of black children and single-parent families dropped rapidly to historic lows.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 builds on the success of the 1996 welfare reform by applying similar principles involving work requirements to SNAP – a welfare program that has grown out-of-control in recent years, both in cost and in the number of recipients. From 2000 to 2015, food stamp recipients increased by more than 28 million and cost the government $83.1 billion in FY 2014 alone.

According to Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield’s paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“The food stamp program is the second largest means-tested welfare program. In 2014, government spent $83.1 billion on the program. In recent years, the most rapidly growing group of food stamp recipients has been able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs are adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled and who have no children to support. In 2014, nearly five million ABAWDs received food stamps each month; few are employed.”

Congress must consider common-sense reform to SNAP in order to rein in its unsustainable growth. Requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work as a condition for food stamp benefits is a sensible, effective policy that should receive broad bipartisan support. An overwhelming 90 percent of Americans agree that able-bodied adults receiving means-tested welfare assistance should be required to work or prepare for work. This reform was included in both President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request as well as the House GOP’s FY 2017 budget, and it has been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success.

Rector and Sheffield continue:

“ABAWDs who receive food stamps should be required to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits. In FY 2014, Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. After the implementation of the work requirement, Maine’s ABAWD caseload dropped substantially, by 80 percent within just a few months. If a federal work requirement for ABAWDs were enacted and achieved the same level of success as was achieved in Maine, the reform could save taxpayers up to $9.7 billion annually.”

If passed and signed into law, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 would encourage millions of Americans to get back to work, help end the cycle of poverty for millions dependent on government assistance, and save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade.       

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

 

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ENLIST Act Activist Toolkit

The ENLIST Act (H.R. 60) would permit certain illegal immigrants to serve in the military and grant them near-instant citizenship. Some members of Congress are pushing the radical idea of granting  illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors — known as DREAMers —  a path to instant citizenship by suggesting it is good for our military.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t help our military preparedness. It is a scheme to normalize amnesty for illegal immigration and essentially codify Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty.  

By allowing illegal immigrants to sign up for the armed forces, the government is granting them, a) pardon for violating the law, b) full military benefits, c) lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., and d) a back-door promise of instant citizenship. If enacted, this policy would provide citizenship within a few months to unlawful immigrant children of every foreign nation.

The purpose of this bill is NOT to help gain more recruits to the military, but to keep alive Obama-era policies that give certain unlawful immigrants an instant green card.

Introduced by Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), the bill has more than 200 co-sponsors, including 100 House Republicans. The legislation is gaining momentum with co-sponsors and may be added to the must-pass NDAA later this year.

Conservative activists must rise up and demand conservative lawmakers remove their name from the co-sponsor list to slow down the bill’s momentum.

Key Talking Points:

  • The ENLIST Act undermines the military by unnecessarily dragging the entire immigration debate into U.S. military policy.
  • By allowing unlawful immigrants to sign up for the armed forces, the government is granting them a pardon for violating the law, the full battery of military benefits, lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., and a back-door promise of instant citizenship.
  • The ENLIST Act further damages our broken immigration system by putting those who violated the law ahead of those who want to come to the U.S. legally.  

The ENLIST Act is a way to keep the Obama Administration’s policies alive by offering a path for amnesty to the estimated 1.7 million unlawful minors who are currently in legal limbo.

Top Priority Members

Name District Twitter Handle DC Office Phone #
Jim Banks IN03 @RepJimBanks 202-225-4436
Jody Hice GA10 @CongressmenHice 202-225-4101
Alexander Mooney WV02 @RepAlexMooney 202-225-2711
Steve Pearce NM02 @RepStevePearce 202-225-2365
Ted Yoho FL03 @RepTedYoho 202-225-5744
Tom Garrett VA05 @Rep_Tom_Garrett 202-225-4711
Morgan Griffith VA09 @RepMGriffith 202-225-3861
David Schweikert AZ06 @RepDavid 202-225-2190
Mike Gallagher WI08 @RepGallagher 202-225-5665
Scott Tipton CO03 @RepTipton 202-225-4761

Priority Members

Name District Twitter Handle DC Office Phone #
Jimmy Duncan TN02 @RepJohnDuncanJr 202-225-5435
Bill Huizenga MI02 @RepHuizenga 202-225-4401
Jason Lewis MN02 @RepJasonLewis 202-225-2271
Mia Love UT04 @RepMiaLove 202-225-3011
Andy Barr KY06 @RepAndyBarr 202-225-4706
Rob Bishop UT01 @RepRobBishop 202-225-0453
Trey Gowdy SC04 @TGowdySC 202-225-6030
Clay Higgins LA03 @RepClayHiggins 202-225-2031
Ted Poe TX02 @JudgeTedPoe 202-225-6565
Jason Smith MO08 @RepJasonSmith 202-225-4404
Joe Barton TX06 @RepJoeBarton 202-225-2002
Lloyd Smucker PA16 @RepSmucker 202-225-2411

 

(Make sure to insert the twitter handle of your Senator)

General Tweets:

Click to tweet: The #ENLISTAct is not immigration reform and doesn’t help our military preparedness.

Click to tweet: The #ENLISTAct keeps alive Obama Admin policies that give unlawful immigrants an instant green card & promises near-instant citizenship

Click to tweet: The #ENLISTAct is a scheme to normalize amnesty for illegal immigration and essentially codify Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty.

If your member is a co-sponsor:

Click to tweet: @REPNAME the #ENLISTAct gives unlawful immigrants a near-instant  citizenship. Remove your name as a co-sponsor!

Click to tweet: The purpose of the #ENLISTAct is NOT to help gain more recruits to the military, but backdoor Amnesty. @REPNAME remove your co-sponsor

Click to tweet: The #ENLISTAct essentially codify Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty. Remove your name as a co-sponsor @REPNAME

Click to tweet: @REPNAME remove your name as co-sponsor on the #ENLISTAct today!

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [District].

The House of Representatives is considering a bill to give illegal immigrants amnesty if they join the military. Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R-CA) Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act (H.R. 60) would allow certain illegal immigrants to receive lawful permanent resident status in exchange for military service.

The ENLIST Act does nothing to advance U.S. national security objectives. In fact, this bill undermines the military by unnecessarily dragging the entire immigration debate into U.S. military policy.

In addition, the ENLIST Act further damages our broken immigration system by putting those who violated the law ahead of those who want to come to the U.S. legally.

Please oppose the ENLIST Act.

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize it. Heritage Action Regional Coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

Congressman X, Oppose Military Amnesty

Congressman [X] currently supports a bill named the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act (H.R. 60). On the surface this bill seems like a harmless idea; the U.S. military receives more troops and those who recently immigrated to our country become eligible to serve.

Proponents of this bill argue that both the military and our immigration system benefit from this legislation, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  

The ENLIST Act would allow illegal immigrants to receive lawful permanent resident status in exchange for military service, aka, military amnesty.

The legislation does nothing to advance U.S. national security objectives. In fact, it undermines the military by unnecessarily dragging the controversial immigration debate into the U.S. military and the brave men and women who serve it.

The ENLIST Act also damages our already broken immigration system by putting those who violated the law ahead of those who want to come to our country legally.

Congressman [X] should respect our military and the rule of law by removing his name from the cosponsor list and opposing the ENLIST Act.

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Empowering Workers Not Labor Unions

Background: Labor unions and their bosses often have goals that do not line up with the desires of workers. When the interests of unions come in conflict with the interests of workers, unions typically make decisions that benefit them rather than employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has further exasperated this problem. When it was first established, Congress intended the NLRB to function as an impartial arbitrator mediating disputes between unions and businesses, but under the Obama administration, the Board consistently proposed and enforced rules that favored labor unions over both workers and employers.

These included: the Ambush Election Rule that shortens the time employers have to convince workers not to join a union, the Micro-Union Rule that allow unions to organize separate groups of workers within one company by job title, the Joint Employer Standard that empowers union members over business owners they indirectly work with, and undermining secret-ballot voting that protects worker privacy.

Problem: Past and recent union rules enacted by the NLRB and pushed by union bosses stifle job creation and undermine workers’ rights. Too often, union leaders put their desire to expand union size, revenue and power above the interest of their workers. In an effort to expand their power and influence, unions use dues to pay for political activities, discourage secret ballot elections to form a union, go on strike, or accept a contract, and suppress efforts by workers to replace union leaders. As a result, union leaders are no longer accountable to their members as 94 percent of union members never voted for the union that currently represents them.

Solution: In order to rebalance labor law in favor of workers rather than union bosses, Congress should pass the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723). Introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the Employee Rights Act would guarantee employees the rights to:

  • Vote privately in a secret ballot election before forming a union;
  • Opt out of having their personal contact information provided to a union during an organizing drive;
  • Hear from employers at least 40 days prior to voting in a union election;
  • Vote in a secret ballot election before accepting a contract or going on strike;
  • Vote regularly on re-electing their union;
  • Decide whether their union can spend their dues on matters unrelated to collective bargaining; and,
  • Be free from union interference or extortion in exercising their legal rights.

This legislation is a major step forward in curbing the abuses of unions and will help ensure that unions best serve the interest of employees, not union bosses. Congress should also take steps to roll back the NLRB’s actions on ambush elections, the joint employer standard, and micro-unions.

Call to Action: The Employee Rights Act was cosponsored by 137 members of Congress when it was introduced last session by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). Heritage Action has endorsed this legislation and urges Sentinels to contact their members of Congress and ask them to cosponsor the bill.

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Pete Olson’s Civil Rights Uniformity Act

This Wednesday Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) was joined by Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), Brian Babin (R-TX) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) in introducing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act (H.R. 2796). This legislation would prevent all references to the words “sex” or “gender” from being misinterpreted to mean “gender identity” in federal civil rights law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, Obamacare, and other laws. This bill affirms that when Congress passed civil rights law, the purpose was to protect against discrimination when it comes to a person’s objective biological sex, not a subjective, self-declared “gender identity.”

On May 13, 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, declaring that the agencies would “treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.” The guidance directed all educational institutions that receive federal funds to allow transgender students to use showers, bathrooms, lockers, dorms, and joint athletic teams that correspond to their subjective, self-declared gender identity, rather than their objective biological sex defined on their birth certificate.  

On August 21, 2016, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the administration’s attempts to redefine sex as unlawful and blocked implementation of the directive ruling. Judge O’Connor ruled that the administration exceeded its authority under Title IX by not allowing the public the proper time to comment and by reinterpreting the law against the will of Congress. According to O’Connor, “It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex…meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.”   

The Obama administration’s unilateral decision to redefine federal law for political purposes imposed a one-size-fits-all policy on every school in the country. It blatantly undermined the rule of law, separation of powers, and federalism while threatening the safety and privacy of young women.

The Trump administration took positive steps forward in addressing the problem by rescinding the Obama guidance on February 22, 2017, but unfortunately this decision was limited to Title IX and the education community. The Trump administration should extend this decision to every area where federal agencies have imposed new “gender identity” rules under the Obama administration, including employment, housing and shelters, business regulation, and health care.

More importantly, Congress must codify this clarification into federal law to prevent future administrations from undermining the legislative branch once again. Ryan Anderson, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, gives further guidance, writing that “Congress should make such administrative actions permanent. The Civil Rights Uniformity Act would:

“have the benefit of undoing the past and current abuses of Title IX, as well as preventing future abuses of other civil rights law.

“Passing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act would ensure that unelected bureaucrats and judges would not get to unilaterally reshape policy affecting women and girls. It would allow schools to continue providing separate bathroom and locker room facilities and sports teams based on biological sex, not gender identity.

“It also would address other unilateral Obama-era “gender identity” reinterpretations in health care, emergency shelters, housing, and employment. At the same time, such legislation would properly leave states and private entities entirely free to provide nuanced, sensitive, and reasonable accommodations of people who identify as transgender.”

Reiterating that “sex” and “gender” refer to objective biology, rather than subjective, self-professed “gender identity” in all federal anti-discrimination statutes, is the most permanent and comprehensive response to the radical left’s transgender policy agenda. Congress should reassert its constitutional authority, defend the rule of law and federalism, and protect the safety and privacy of young women by passing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

 

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