Waiving Work Requirements for Welfare Recipients
Quitting smoking. Hitting the gym. Getting a massage. Cleaning up your elderly grandmother’s house. These, and many other “personal care” and “personal development” activities, could soon be considered as work participation requirements to receive welfare in several states. What might sound crazy to the average nine to five employee may possibly end up being categorized as work activities, in an attempt to make Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) more flexible and innovative.
Back in 1996, welfare reform was enacted with the goals of getting benefit recipients to both get off welfare and contribute to society in some way. The work program requires individuals on welfare to work for thirty-five hours, in order to receive a check. Activities that count towards the thirty-five hours may include volunteering, for an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, training in a vocational program, or job searching.
This month, the Department of Health and Human Services released a memo that the agency would be waiving some of the work requirements, completely bypassing Congress. States will be able to waive reporting the requirements and also create new ones, with the idea of giving agency employees more time for client services. Realistically, is journaling and reading self-help books, practically, going to get someone a job? No.
The recession’s effects, particularly chronic unemployment and underemployment, are the worst since the Great Depression. Encouraging a mechanism to perpetuate assistance will not carry the nation through tough times.
In response to the release, candidate Mitt Romney voiced that “the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.” Complaining of the unilateral move, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said “I'm disappointed that after years of sitting on their hands and failing to propose any significant improvements to the TANF programs, the Obama Administration is once again over-stepping their authority and attempting to circumvent Congress through an unprecedented bypass of the legislative process.” In a system ridden with fraud, throwing out true work participation to society is certainly not the way to go.