Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02) joined Congressmen Dave Camp (MI-04), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Fred Upton (MI-06) Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in calling on the U.S. Senate to prevent the Obama administration from waiving longstanding work requirements for federal welfare recipients.
Enacted in 1996 as part of welfare reform under the Clinton administration, federal law has required states to impose a work requirement for those receiving welfare benefits. Specifically, 50% of all families and 90% of two-parent families that receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits must work or be engaged in a work-related activity, such as job training. On July 12, 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued "guidance" suggesting that it would allow states to opt out of the TANF program's work requirement for the first time since 1996.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Chairman Camp that prohibits HHS from implementing its waiver plan and prevents the administration from waiving federal work requirements. The legislation also reauthorizes the TANF program through year's end. The Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013 (H.R. 890) passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 246 to 181 (228 Republicans and 18 Democrats supported the measure; 3 Republicans and 178 Democrats opposed it) and now awaits consideration before the Senate Finance Committee. In September 2012, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that the Obama administration circumvented Congress to waive the welfare work requirements.
"Today's vote shows that there is clear, bipartisan opposition in Congress to the Obama Administration's efforts to dismantle the welfare work requirements," said Camp. "These work requirements, along with the other landmark 1996 welfare reforms, have been essential to increasing work and earnings and decreasing welfare dependence and poverty among low-income Americans. I urge my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation and send it to the President's desk for his signature."
"Waiving these essential bipartisan work requirements is a step backwards in the effort to reduce welfare dependence among low-income Americans," said Huizenga. "We cannot afford to revert back to a welfare system that encourages dependency instead of helping low-income Michiganders become self-sufficient. Now, more than ever, the focus must be on getting people off the aid roll and back on the payroll, and that is why I urge the Senate to quickly take up this legislation, pass it, and send it to President Obama for his signature."
"We should be doing everything in our ability to help our nation's most vulnerable find gainful employment and get back on their feet. Folks in Michigan would rather be supporting their families and paying taxes than depending on Washington," said Upton. "Waiving the bipartisan work requirements as we are trying to get our nation back to work would seriously undermine the progress we have made to lift struggling families out of poverty. We also owe it to the American people to ensure their hard-earned tax dollars are wisely spent."