In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law historic welfare reforms that required able-bodied adults without dependents to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to receive food stamps. But under the Obama administration, those work requirements were relaxed in nearly every state, and enrollees were allowed to remain on the program indefinitely, instead of being limited to the three month maximum. The effect? Food Stamp dependence skyrocketed to over 48 million Americans in 2013 and food stamps became one of the fastest growing entitlements in the federal budget.
And even though unemployment is on the decline, last year as many as 42 states had at least a partial waiver for work requirements in effect, and more than 45 million Americans were still receiving food stamp benefits. But thankfully, many governors are beginning to reinforce work requirements and the number of states choosing to reinforce the federal requirement is growing. This year, thanks in part to the work of FGA, as many as 10 states will reinstate work requirements.
The increased focus on moving people from welfare to work is having a positive impact on both state budgets and personal incomes.
Earlier today, on Fox News, William La Jeunesse reported on the changes Kansas has made to their food stamp program and FGA’s research into the impact welfare reform has made for food stamp recipients, and those who have cycled off the program.
The Kansas model has helped to free 20,000 of their able-bodied citizens from dependence on food stamps, and those who have left the program have seen their incomes rise on average by an incredible 127 percent.
In a recent poll conducted by FGA, 82 percent of all likely voters approve of work requirements for welfare, and La Jeunesse also shared that nearly 83 percent of Americans believe work is the best way out of poverty. In Kansas when there was no welfare work requirement prior to 2013, just one in five able-bodied adults on food stamps had a job. Nearly 93 percent of them were in poverty, most in severe poverty. Now, thanks to these reforms, nearly half of all able-bodied adults had jobs within one quarter of leaving the program and able-bodied adult enrollment in the food stamp program is now 75 percent lower.
States like Kansas, Maine and Colorado have also recently restricted where food stamp electronic benefit cards can be used. A study in Maine found that people were using their food stamp benefits at Disney theme parks in Orlando, Florida.
As FGA’s senior fellow Josh Archambault told Fox News, “I assure you, Florida is nowhere near Maine.”
Several states have also begun to enforce asset testing for welfare benefits and restrict the use of EBT cards at tattoo parlors, travel agencies, and strip clubs. But a recent report out of Massachusetts shows there’s still much improvement needed in order to keep taxpayer dollars from being spent on items of luxury or vice.
The taxpayers of Massachusetts have been unknowingly paying for improper spending of their welfare benefits that may very well include paying for dances at strip clubs. An investigation by WWLP, found that “Massachusetts welfare recipients took out more than $236-million in cash in one year.”
Asset testing, eligibility audits, and work requirements are all positive welfare reforms moving in state legislatures across the country and states like Kansas are proving that these reforms are not only beneficial to the taxpayer’s wallet, they are also the compassionate choice.