First of Its Kind Study Shows the Power of Work

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For too long, thousands of Kansans have languished in welfare, without hope of a better life. But thanks to one simple policy change, many Kansans are now on the path to a better life.

Under federal law, all able-bodied, childless adults in the food stamp program are required to work or train for work at least 20 hours per week. But with help from the Obama administration, most states have been waiving those requirements in recent years. Last year, for example, more than 40 states waived these critical requirements, fostering a culture of long-term dependency.

But in 2013, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback bucked the trend and instructed state officials to reinstate work requirements and time limits for able-bodied adults. Within three months, half of all able-bodied adults on food stamps had cycled off the program. Enrollment is now 75 percent lower for this group of adults than it was before work requirements took effect.

The Brownback administration also set in motion a first-of-its-kind tracking system to monitor the state’s success in moving Kansans from welfare to work. Over the course of two years, the state’s Department of Labor and its Department for Children and Families tracked earnings and employment for nearly 41,000 able-bodied adults leaving food stamps after the work requirements went into effect.

New research from the Foundation for Government Accountability examines the results of Kansas’ welfare reforms and the findings are simply staggering . Work requirements have led to more employment, higher incomes, and less poverty. And instead of drawing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, these able-bodied adults are now contributing tens of millions of dollars to the local economy.