Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WORK REQUIREMENTS ARE KEY TO LIFTING AMERICANS FROM POVERTY SHOWS STUDY
KANSAS’ REFORM FREES THOUSANDS FROM WELFARE, PROVIDES ECONOMIC BOOST
Welfare fails the poor by punishing work and trapping able-bodied, working-age adults in poverty. But a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind study finds that work requirements don’t just get adults back on their feet – work lets Americans thrive, says research released by the Foundation for Government Accountability today.
The number of Americans on food stamps has nearly tripled in the last 15 years and spending on the program has grown 10 times faster than federal revenues, leaving fewer resources for critical services. Food stamps often serve as a gateway to other welfare programs, increasing government dependency.
A key driver of this food stamp crisis is the lack of work requirements. In fact, more than 40 states were not enforcing work requirements in 2015. But the state of Kansas, under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback, decided to start enforcing federal work requirements. The results were astonishing.
After just three months of reinstated work requirements, nearly 13,000 Kansans were freed from welfare dependency. Within a year, nearly 60 percent of these former enrollees found employment and increased their incomes by an average of 127 percent.
Former enrollees are now better off than they were on welfare. In fact, after losing around $2,000 in food stamps, former enrollees have increased their incomes by over $3,000, more than offsetting their lost benefits. Those still receiving food stamps are better off as well, seeing their incomes more than double.
“Welfare destroys lives. It punishes work and, as a direct result, it robs Americans of a better future. That’s why work requirements are so important. Work is the only long-term solution to poverty and the only path to a prosperous life,” said Jonathan Ingram, FGA’s Vice President of Research and co-author of the study.
“The Kansas data clearly shows the best way to help able-bodied adults who are trapped in welfare is to get them back to work as quickly as possible. The more time people spend on welfare, the harder it is for them to get a job. But once they get back to work, their earnings skyrocket and they create a better life for themselves than welfare ever could. To policymakers who want to lift Americans out of the poverty trap – Kansas has shown you the way.”
These simple welfare reforms have produced success stories across the state. For example, Jason, a young man who lives near Kansas City, signed up for food stamps in early 2009 as the Great Recession was taking its toll. But even when the economy began improving, Jason’s situation stagnated and he languished on food stamps for four years. With no earned income, Jason was stuck in the poverty trap and set on a path for long-term government dependency.
Work changed everything. Jason was among the first group of Kansans freed from the welfare trap after work was reinstated and, within three months, he had already worked his way out of poverty. Today, Jason is working in the publishing industry earning $45,000 per year with a bright future ahead. Jason is just one of the lives transformed by work requirements and time limits.
To learn more about how Kansas’ welfare reform is lifting Americans out of poverty, improving the lives of enrollees, and providing a boost to the economy, read FGA’s full paper here.