Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are welfare recipients really required to work?

In response to a twitter town hall question, President Obama claimed welfare recipients are now required to work. Is that true? Like so much President Obama says, there is a thin veil of truth to it, but when you dig deeper, you discover you are being deceived. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 -- A.K.A. "The Welfare Reform Act" actually has a work requirement.
Under the Welfare Reform Act, the following rules apply:
  • Most recipients are required to find jobs within two years of first receiving welfare payments.
  • Most recipients are allowed to receive welfare payments for a total of no more than five years.
  • The states are allowed to establish "family caps" that prevent mothers of babies born while the mother is already on welfare from receiving additional benefits.
The problem is implementation of this requirement was left up to the states. Statistics for many states are hard to find, but they are available for California. California is a good state to check because they have about 12 percent of the nation’s population, but about 30 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients. California has done such a poor job enforcing the welfare-to-work provision, only 22 percent of work-eligible welfare recipients are complying.
But we didn’t go far enough. While other states tightened their time limits and sanctions, California’s program remained lax, with extended time limits and weak sanction policies. The direct consequence of the state’s failure to clean up the system is the disproportionately high welfare rate we face today.

And we’ve tolerated these bloated welfare rolls despite the fact that most CalWORKs recipients aren’t following the rules. The law requires welfare recipients to meet a minimum level of work participation, but only 22 percent of work-eligible welfare recipients in California actually do so. Incredibly, of California recipients required to work in 2007, 64 percent didn’t work at all—not a single hour. This must change.

An effective welfare system plays an essential role in supporting families through difficult times and returning people to work or retraining them for new careers. But a welfare system that doesn’t sufficiently prepare or encourage recipients to re-enter the workforce does a disservice to everyone, including recipients and the taxpayers who support the program. It’s time to overhaul and reform the California welfare system, while bringing it more in line with programs in the rest of the nation.
Americans have been flim-flammed by President Obama again.

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