This was originally posted by the fabulously talented Maggie Thurber over at Thurber’s Thoughts. Please go visit her site…
If you rely only upon the main stream media, you’ll probably miss the latest move by President Barack Obama’s administration that effectively guts the work participation requirement for the TANF welfare program.
TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, was part of the Clinton-era welfare reform in 1996 that required individuals to work or ‘prepare’ for work (training, education) in order to receive benefits. It is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
As the Morning Bell points out, that requirement was successful, but now the law is being gutted – and you’re paying for it (emphasis added).
This reform was very successful. TANF became the only welfare program (out of more than 70) that promoted greater self-reliance. It moved 2.8 million families off the welfare rolls and into jobs so that they were providing for themselves. Child poverty fell, and single-parent employment rose. Recipients were required to perform at least 20–30 hours per week of work or job preparation activities in exchange for the cash benefit.
Now, Obama’s HHS is claiming that it can waive those work requirements that are at the heart of the law, and without Congress’s consent.
When it established TANF, Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF program from waiver authority. They explicitly did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of HHS bureaucrats. In a December 2001, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service clarified that there was no authority to override work and other major requirements: “Effectively, there are no TANF waivers,” it reported.
But that did not stop the Obama Administration, which has been increasing welfare spending at an alarming rate already. President Obama has added millions to the welfare rolls, and his Administration has come under fire lately for its efforts to expand and add more Americans to the food stamp program.
This is a chronic problem: Over the past two decades, welfare spending has grown more rapidly than Social Security and Medicare, education, and defense. The TANF reform was one small step in the direction of reducing Americans’ dependence on government programs and getting them back on their feet. Cutting its work component is likely to unnecessarily swell the ranks of welfare recipients and with no way to pay for it.
Scope of Authority
Section 1115 authorizes waivers concerning section 402. Accordingly, other provisions of the TANF statute are not waivable. For example, the purposes of TANF are not waivable, because they are contained in section 401. The prohibitions on assistance are not waivable, because they are contained in section 408.
While the TANF work participation requirements are contained in section 407, section 402(a)(1)(A)(iii) requires that the state plan “[e]nsure that parents and caretakers receiving assistance under the program engage in work activities in accordance with section 407.” Thus, HHS has authority to waive compliance with this 402 requirement and authorize a state to test approaches and methods other than those set forth in section 407, including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures, and the calculation of participation rates. As described below, however, HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF.
Here’s the logic:
* the work requirement is contained in a non-waivable section of law (407)
* a different section (402), which requires that a state plan adhere to the non-waivable section, is waivable
* therefore, HHS is waiving section 402, which requires the state plan to follow section 407
* end result: section 407 is effectively waived.
But there’s a bit of a problem with that logic, as this Foundry.org article explains:
Section 402 describes state plans—reports that state governments must file to HHS describing the actions they will undertake to comply with the many requirements established in the other sections of the TANF law. The authority to waive section 402 provides the option to waive state reporting requirements only, not to overturn the core requirements of the TANF program contained in the other sections of the TANF law.
The new Obama dictate asserts that because the work requirements, established in section 407, are mentioned as an item that state governments must report about in section 402, all the work requirements can be waived. This removes the core of the TANF program; TANF becomes a blank slate that HHS bureaucrats and liberal state bureaucrats can rewrite at will. … In a December 2001 document, “Welfare Reform Waivers and TANF,” the non-partisan Congressional Research Service clarified that the limited authority to waive state reporting requirement in section 402 does not grant authority to override work and other major requirements in the other sections of the TANF law (sections that were deliberately not listed under the section 1115 waiver authority):
Technically, there is waiver authority for TANF state plan requirement; however, [the] major TANF requirements are not in state plans. Effectively, there are no TANF waivers.
And who do you think is going to cover the cost of the expected increase in welfare rolls when people learn they won’t be required to work in order to be eligible?
The Obama administration has just ended welfare reform – and you’re going to pay for it.