President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week that allows federal and state agencies to make changes to their welfare programs. The measure also allows states more flexibility in deciding their own welfare laws.
“Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence,” the executive order reads.
The executive order asks federal and state agencies to enforce their current laws, recommend new ones like work requirements and find parts of the program that can be cut in order to save money. The executive order aims to increase economic mobility and opportunity through work.
Trump’s executive order provides a set of guidelines called, the Nine Principles of Economic Mobility for federal and state agencies to follow when considering changes to various welfare programs. They mainly focus on making the program available to those that are really in need and moving those that aren’t towards economic independence and opportunity.
They include ideas such as streaming services to more effectively use taxpayer resources, consolidate duplicative programs and promoting marriage and family as a way of escaping poverty.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan welcomed the move, calling Trump’s demand for welfare reform the perfect way to face the country’s poverty problem, and also develop a strong work force. The Speaker also touted low unemployment rates as another reason now is the perfect time for reform.
“This is one of the best economic environments we’ve seen in years, yet businesses are having a hard time finding qualified workers. Combining work requirements with work supports is an effective strategy for helping Americans move from welfare into the labor force, as proven by states like Kansas and Maine. But that’s just the start,” Ryan said.
Another vehicle being used to move welfare reform is The 2018 Farm Bill, which would expand work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps. The bill is still in draft form and could have some changes made to it by time it makes its way through Congress, but the hope is that it will cut down on welfare fraud and abuse.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation into law last week that also aims to transition able-body recipients of government assistance into the work force. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin passed legislation one day later that strengthened work requirements for recipients in hopes of cutting down on fraud.
A poll done by the Foundation for Government Accountability showed that 90% of respondents supported the idea of able-body recipients working or volunteering a certain number of hours a week in order to receive benefits. Another poll done by Politico showed similar results. That poll showed 64% of Democrats and 77% of Independents were in favor of work requirements.
There are now nearly 21 million able-bodied adults dependent on food stamps, more than three times as many as in 2000. Nearly 28 million able-bodied adults are now dependent on Medicaid, up from 7 million in 2000.
It is believed that these increases are due to Obama-era loopholes that allowed states to waive work requirements for welfare recipients. As a result of the various loopholes and the increase in recipients, state budgets have reportedly been exploded, and spending for various other government programs have been threatened.