A new, independent report found that the Obama Administration's decision to unilaterally waive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare, work requirements through a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Informational Memorandum (IM) "undermines TANF work rules." The report, The Welfare Waivers: How They Really Do Water Down Work Requirements, released by the Manhattan Institute supports what the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in a September analysis requested by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that HHS "abruptly abandoned" its previous position that it did not have the authority to waive TANF work requirements.
"Analysis after analysis have overwhelmingly dispelled the notion that the Obama Administration has the blanket authority to unilaterally undermine welfare work requirements," said Hatch. "This report is a confirmation why the Administration's actions that could dramatically expand what is counted as work raised such significant alarm bells. The fact is no Administration -- from Clinton to Bush -- had ever thought it had this kind of power. It's time the White House play it straight with the American people and explain why they alone believe they can lessen the emphasis on work as a critical component of welfare."
The analysis recently released raises concerns that the IM issued by HHS could "lead to an expanded TANF caseload by allowing activities that are not governed by work participation rates." Furthermore, it concludes that, "If the new HHS policy survives a potential legal challenge and ongoing congressional challenges, it is hard to see how it would not undermine the clear work participation rates in TANF."
The report also recommends that, "The next Congress and president should work together, in the same bipartisan spirit reflected in the original 1996 law that builds on the success of reform, rather than turning back the clock through waivers."
In September, Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) asked HHS for a legal analysis detailing how the agency determined it had the unilateral authority to waive welfare work requirements. The letter came on the heels of the GAO report that found the IM issued by HHS on July 12 was a rule subject to congressional review and approval or disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The GAO also concluded that until this year, no Administration, including the Obama Administration, has stated it has the authority to waive welfare work requirements.
Last month, Senate Democrats blocked Hatch's resolution of disapproval of the HHS rule. Under the rules of the Congressional Review Act, the Senate is required to consider Hatch's resolution when the Senate reconvenes.