In 1996, President Clinton signed into law a historic bipartisan accomplishment for the American people: welfare reform. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 replaced the unsuccessful Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation:
The reform legislation had three goals: 1) to reduce welfare dependence and increase employment; 2) to reduce child poverty; and 3) to reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing and strengthen marriage.
Within a few years after its implementation, the bill was successful in each of those areas. The number of people on welfare was cut in half, employment of low-income single parents skyrocketed, and poverty rates of children and black Americans dropped to all-time lows. This demonstrated to the American people that strong work requirements are essential in reducing poverty and moving people off welfare.
Last week, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced The Jobs Act (S. 3692). Similar to a bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee (H.R. 5861), this bill would re-authorize TANF funding and enact reforms to help people get back to work. The reforms would help low-income Americans find jobs by requiring states to develop personalized plans for employment and by making sure that federal and state funds are only spent on employment-related reasons. According to Rector:
This bill embodies the principle that able-bodied recipients should work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving aid. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans agree with that principle. The bill builds upon the success of welfare reform enacted in 1996, which dramatically reduced welfare dependence and child poverty. Measured properly, the poverty rate of unmarried parents is less than half of what it was before welfare reform. This bill, with a few technical changes, will continue that progress. We will work closely with Congress on technical improvements to ensure the bill meets its goals.
Heritage Action supports Sen. Daines legislation. By adding additional conservative reforms to the TANF program, it enhances work requirements and requires people to partake in activities that will help them get back to work. As a result, this will reduce welfare dependence and help Americans live more dignified lives.