Boustany presents ideas to improve welfare programs

Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) recently presented ideas meant to improve welfare programs to aid families in finding work and escaping poverty.

Boustany first welcomed Congressman Bob Dold (R-IL), the newest member on the Committee on Ways and Means, to the Subcommittee on Human Resources and thanked Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY), who is leaving the subcommittee.

“We know that welfare reforms in the 1990s helped millions of low-income parents go to work and move up the economic ladder,” Boustany said. “The key was increasing work. After work-based welfare reform, employment by single mothers—who head households most likely to go on welfare—rose sharply. That increased work and earnings caused poverty and dependence on welfare checks to fall substantially for key groups. Poverty among African American households with children reached record lows. And poverty among female-headed households with children remains lower today than before 1996 despite two recessions.

“While that story is positive, it’s not enough. Recent years have seen troubling trends, especially on whether State welfare programs are doing enough to engage adults in work. For instance, according to HHS, states reported that in 2011 a full 55 percent of adults on welfare did zero hours of work or other activity while collecting benefit checks. Despite welfare’s apparent work requirements, States did so through a grab bag of accounting gimmicks, loopholes and exceptions. Then in mid-2012 the Obama Administration released their unprecedented ‘guidance’ suggesting states could waive the work requirements altogether. While no states sought waivers, that move sent a clear signal that work requirements don’t matter to the Obama Administration. Add in the fact that the last comprehensive reauthorization of welfare was in 2006, and it’s clearly past time for a full review and reauthorization of this critical program.

“This is about more than just abstract policies. We are pleased to be joined by Sherrie Smoot, who spent years on welfare without getting the help she really needed—how to find, get, and keep a job. Her example shows what can happen when we help people solve problems, instead of just dispensing checks year after year. That’s the real goal of our hearing today—for more people to succeed like Sherrie.”