Congress must repair welfare state disaster it caused with coronavirus relief bills

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The United States had the rug pulled out from under our way of life, as, overnight, our lives and our economy completely changed. With tens of millions unemployed and most of the country staying home, the nation looked to Congress for help. Unfortunately, the relief we first felt with the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or the FFCRA, and the CARES Act soon gave way to disappointment when we realized just what these big-government bills mean for workers, businesses, and states.

At a time when state budgets are already beginning to collapse, the FFCRA handcuffs states from removing ineligible people from their Medicaid programs. No wonder there are already talks of bailouts: Congress’s confusing and likely illegal language in the act put states between a rock and a hard place. It forces states to choose between accepting additional Medicaid funds and violating federal statutes and their own state program integrity laws or adhering to federal statutes and state laws but not getting a penny of the emergency aid.

These changes in the act mean that, as millions of new, able-bodied applicants move onto Medicaid, states that agree to accept the additional funding will be unable to remove anyone, even when they return to work or become ineligible. Even worse, our legal experts have found that states may not be reimbursed for the ineligible applicants they were forced to accept because of legal uncertainty surrounding the funding.