The Obama Administration is denying that it has gutted the work requirements from the 1996 welfare reform law, despite all evidence that it has. Heritage is going in-depth with analysis of the law and the reasoning Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives for rewriting it.
A new Legal Memo by visiting legal fellow Andrew Grossman lays out the details of the HHS argument and pointedly states that there is no basis in law for the changes the Administration has made.
The centerpiece of the 1996 law—and the center of controversy in the HHS action—is a part of the original law called Section 407, which set an absolute requirement that state welfare programs achieve specific work-participation rates or forfeit federal funding. It was a hard-fought battle, Grossman recalls: “Even after President Bill Clinton twice vetoed welfare reform legislation, Congress refused to budge on the core requirement of Section 407, insisting on strong work incentives to discourage abuses and to help lift recipients off of welfare and out of poverty.”
Grossman explains that Section 407 is very specific about what “work” means and how much would be required:
Section 407 enumerates 12 “work activities”—including subsidized and unsubsidized employment, on-the-job training, and vocational training—that satisfy the state and individual work requirements. It specified the number of hours per week that family members would be required to work to be considered “participating in work activities.” It put a hard cap of 30 percent on the proportion of a state’s welfare recipients who could participate in educational activities and still be counted as engaged in work. Finally, the law requires HHS to oversee and verify states’ compliance with all work requirements.
Obama’s HHS now claims that it has the authority to waive the requirements of Section 407. Grossman spotlights the department’s twisted legal reasoning, exposing its flaws.
What’s more, Grossman says that waiving the work requirements “is not only terrible policy, but also a violation of the President’s constitutional obligation to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’”