The Obama Administration sure is getting defensive about its recent action to waive all work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program. But this isn’t the first time or the first program in which Obama Administration policy has undermined work requirements.
The welfare reform of 1996 requires that after three months on food stamps, recipients be engaged in some kind of work activity for at least 20 hours a week. Tucked away in the mammoth 2009 so-called “stimulus” spending bill was the suspension of this requirement for able-bodied adults with no children. The suspension expired on September 30, 2010. His next two budgets then requested that the suspension be extended each year. However, he did not wait for Congress to act on these requests; instead his Department of Agriculture issued waivers to 44 states and the District of Columbia freeing them from implementing the food stamp work requirement.
What has been the result?
The number of able-bodied adults without children on food stamps has doubled, increasing from 1.7 million people in 2009 to 3.9 million in 2010 and costing taxpayers an extra $4 billion per year.
It’s not surprising, then, that the work requirements in the TANF program are now on the chopping block. As my colleague Robert Rector points out, liberals have a long history of opposing work requirements in welfare.
The sad outcome of the Obama Administration’s action is that millions of families on welfare will no longer be engaged in job preparation activities to help them enter the workforce and become self-sufficient. Instead, the days that welfare reform was supposed to put behind us—of cutting welfare checks to poor families and forgetting about them—are back. The future for these needy families just got bleaker.