Welfare Work Requirements Not Waiveable

The Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Grossman has written a Legal Memorandum on the Obama Administration’s recent directive to grant waivers to states in order to get out of the welfare work requirements included in the 1996 reforms. Not only does this undermine the letter and the spirit of the law – which cut the welfare rolls in half and increased the employment and salaries of low-income individuals – but it also runs contrary to the law:

“Under the guise of providing states greater ‘flexibility’ in operating their welfare programs, the Obama Administration now claims the authority to weaken or waive the work requirements that are at the heart of welfare reform. In particular, it argues that Section 1115, which provides waiver authority for states to establish demonstration projects, authorizes it to approve state programs that ‘test approaches and methods other than those set forth in section 407,’ including different ‘definitions of work activities and engagement.’ In this way, states could evade Section 407’s work-participation requirement without sacrificing federal funding.

“But the Obama Administration’s claim that it may weaken or waive work requirements is contrary to law. Section 407 establishes a stand-alone requirement for state welfare plans that brooks no exceptions, befitting its status as the core component of the 1996 reform. It is also absent from the list of requirements that may be waived under Section 1115. Indeed, to eliminate any possible ambiguity as to whether the work requirements could be waived immediately following passage of the 1996 reform, a separate provision specifically states that waivers ‘shall not affect the applicability of section [407].’

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Encouraging Failure

Heritage Action communications director, Dan Holler, has a new column this week deriding the encouragement of failure. Just as the Olympic rules allows for badminton teams to purposefully lose in early rounds in order to get a better placement in later rounds, so does the federal government provide for those who choose not to try their hardest:

“According to The Heritage Foundation, more than 67 million Americans received some sort of subsidy from the government last year. From housing, health care, and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance, an individual could receive benefits valued at nearly $33,000 per year.

“Why would anyone chose to work a minimum wage job for $7.25 an hour when they could get what amounts to $16.50 per hour (based on a 40 hour workweek) from the government?

“Need more evidence?

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Reinstating Welfare Work Requirements

The pushback against the Obama administration’s illegal effort to gut welfare reform work requirements continues. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Education & Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have introduced the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act, which would prohibit the Health and Human Services (HHS) from providing states waivers for welfare work requirements.

Last week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius encouraged states to seek “waivers” of work requirements for welfare recipients from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In 1996, this program was reformed by a Republican-led Congress (influenced by The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector) which ultimately forced President Clinton to sign the overhaul into law. The reforms enacted resulted in declines of government dependence, including:

  • Significant increases in the employment and earnings of single mothers;
  • Record declines in welfare dependency as TANF rolls fell by more than 57 percent; and
  • Significant reductions in child poverty in female-headed households, which even after the impact of a deep recession are still below pre-reform levels.
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Letter: Reinstate Welfare Work Requirements

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) have written a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius denouncing the undermining of the 1996 welfare reforms by waiving work requirements for welfare recipients. The HHS announced last week that it was encouraging states to provide “waivers” to such requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

In 1996, the Republican-led Congress – inspired by the great work of Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation – forced President Clinton to accept sweeping welfare reforms that resulted in record numbers of welfare recipients leaving the government’s dole and getting themselves out of poverty. To undo those reforms – primarily the work requirement – now will ensure that millions will be discouraged from ending their dependence on the federal government and will in turn hurt our economy. Sen. Hatch and Rep. Camp understand this, and contend that such waivers are not even allowed under the 1996 reforms:

“Simply put, if Congress had intended to allow waivers of TANF work requirements, it would have said so in the statute. Instead, Congress did the opposite and explicitly prohibited waivers to section 407 work requirements, among other sections of the Social Security Act.”

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State of Dependency

Heritage Action’s communications director Dan Holler wrote his Townhall column this week on the growing number of Americans who rely on the federal government for sustenance – whether it be welfare, food stamps, housing assistance or anything else. As of 2009, 21% of Americans rely on the government (i.e. they take more from the government than they contribute). Instead of helping these people learn to provide for themselves, the current system of welfare – along with misguided rhetoric against success spewing from the current Administration – keeps them in their current status, as Dan points out:

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