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How Work Requirements in Welfare Could Help All Americans

Work is powerful. A job can bring financial stability, a rising income, and opportunity. In a new paper, FGA Senior Research Fellow Michael Greibrok identifies just how powerful it would be for the truly needy, taxpayers, and the American economy if Congress were to reconnect welfare with work for able-bodied adults.

According to the paper, welfare enrollment has grown exponentially in recent years. And many of these enrollees are able-bodied adults of prime working age who could be working but aren’t. In Medicaid, 40 million out of the more than 100 million enrollees are able-bodied adults. And in food stamps—in which enrollment has increased by 20 percent in just three years—18 million able-bodied adults are enrolled.

The rapid growth of welfare is one problem. The fact that a significant number of able-bodied people enrolled in these programs don’t work even part time—when there are nearly 10 million jobs available—is another and the crux of Greibrok’s paper. Greibrok explains how much of this growth can be attributed to Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, and pandemic-era policies that expanded welfare to able-bodied adults and waived work requirements.

Without clear enrollment standards, the result is a massive growth of the welfare state, with resources siphoned from the truly needy and taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in spending. There are nearly twice as many jobs as there are people looking for work—and such a labor shortage inevitably affects inflation, as a lack of workers drives up costs of goods and services.

Greibrok points out that a universal requirement for able-bodied adults age 18 to 64 without small children at home to work, train, or volunteer at least part time would boost the economy by more than $370 billion. This could increase the real GDP by nearly two percentage points, fill thousands of open jobs, raise household incomes, save taxpayers money, and preserve resources for the truly needy.

The bottom line: For the sake of the truly needy, taxpayers, and the economy at large, Congress should pass universal work requirements.

Read the paper here.

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