A simple change can get welfare recipients back to work

State and federal welfare policies are trapping millions of families in dependency. The law that requires able-bodied adults to work, train, or volunteer in order to receive welfare has a gaping hole: able-bodied parents and middle-age adults, ages 50-64, are exempt. Fortunately, Congress and the Trump administration can move these able-bodied adults from welfare to work with one simple move — ending the exemption.

Decades of experience and proven results have taught us that these exemptions, however well-intentioned they may have initially been, trap people in dependency and limit their chances at better lives. And it’s not just a temporary trap. Two in five able-bodied parents on food stamps have spent eight or more years on the program.

We are not helping parents, their children, or middle-aged adults with these exemptions. Rather, we’re making them far more likely to remain trapped in dependency. Work, not welfare, is the best path out of poverty, dependency, and despair. But with no work requirements in place for so many able-bodied adults, few of these parents and middle-aged adults work. According to data from the Department of Agriculture, just 18 percent of these able-bodied adults work full-time. A whopping 58 percent do not work at all.