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GAO confirms: Obama welfare memo was unprecedented change to work requirement

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

Two weeks ago, the Government Accountability Office issued a letter confirming one of Mitt Romney’s main charges against President Obama’s July Health and Human Services welfare memo: that Obama illegally exceeded his executive authority and therefore must submit his policy change to Congress for approval.

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office again confirmed Romney’s another attack on Obama’s welfare policy, this time certifying that, since welfare reform (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, aka TANF) became law, the HHS has never granted work requirement waivers similar to the ones the Obama memo authorizes. Specifically, the GAO concludes: “Since the creation of TANF, HHS has not granted any section 1115 waivers related to TANF. Many states received section 1115 waivers under AFDC, and they were allowed to continue these until their expiration, the last of which expired in 2007. No provision in law allowed these AFDC waivers to be extended.”

Also yesterday, The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, one of the architects of the 1996 welfare reform law, released a paper detailing how Obama’s work requirement memo guts welfare reform:

The TANF work requirements were the main driving force behind the success of welfare reform. These rules require 30 percent to 40 percent of the able-bodied TANF caseload to engage in any of 12 different work activities for 20 hours to 30 hours per week.

Although the TANF work requirements are often described as moving people “from welfare to work,” this term is somewhat misleading. Vigorous work requirements substantially reduce unnecessary new entrances into the welfare system and promote exits from the rolls. The decline in unnecessary new enrollments was critical to the success of welfare reform.

Work requirements are a compassionate aspect of welfare reform. For example, work requirements are more lenient than time limits. With a work requirement, aid continues as long as the recipient behaves in a constructive manner. Regrettably, the current TANF work requirements are far too lenient. At present, half of the work-eligible TANF recipients receive checks while doing nothing. They are completely idle on the rolls. This is not a byproduct of the recession; it has been a constant feature of TANF for many years.

The left wing of the Democratic Party opposed welfare reform in 1996. In the years since then, it has repeatedly sought to eliminate federal work requirements. What the left was unable to accomplish through legislation, the Obama Administration is now attempting to implement through backdoor bureaucratic action.

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