Time is just right for moving more Americans from welfare to work

The Trump administration this week released its 2020 budget request, which offers bold and effective welfare reforms that can capitalize on a roaring economy and move more Americans into the workforce. Frankly, it could not come at a better time.

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There is a near-record number of able-bodied adults dependent on food stamps today—and only eight percent of this group work full-time jobs. According to government data, 28 million able-bodied adults are on Medicaid, and most aren’t working at all.

Other would-be workers are being kept on the sidelines by a broken federal disability insurance program that disincentivizes work—similar to the welfare system. Still more are dissuaded by government-imposed barriers, high occupational licensing fees and lengthy education and training requirements that often do not align with a given profession.

The result is hurting many Americans—as many who could be working are missing out on the freedom and financial benefits that come with having a job. Employers don’t have access to a pool of capable workers. And the economy is not reaching its full potential. This could be put to rest if Congress adopts the powerful welfare and work requirement reforms set forth in the president’s budget proposal—reforms that will move many from welfare to work, create alternative pathways to work and further jumpstart the economy.

One such reform would bring work requirement uniformity across federal welfare programs by requiring recipients of Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance program to work, train or volunteer at least part-time in order to receive welfare benefits. This would only impact those welfare recipients who have the ability to work -- whether part-time or full-time.

Research shows that work requirements have powerful impacts on those stuck in a welfare rut, taxpayers and the economy. In Florida, after work requirements went into effect, those leaving welfare found work in over 1,000 industries. In Arkansas, the same group returning to the workforce more than tripled their incomes within two years.

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The budget also calls for reforms that would eliminate waste within the disability program—preserving resources for the truly needy—and test new approaches to increase labor force participation. Bold reforms that emphasize the importance of work are exactly what our economy needs to kick it into high gear and to reach the president’s goal of sustained GDP growth of three percent or better.

To do this, the nation’s workforce must expand by millions. We have the people to meet that demand. Now we need the policies to match.

Kristina Rasmussen is vice president of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability.