Work Requirements Promote Independence, Wolf Should Embrace Them

Work requirements are helping thousands of Americans rise above poverty and gain independence from government programs. In fact, when states like Kansas and Maine implemented work requirements for food stamps, half of those who left the program saw their incomes more than double.

That’s why the Human Services Code, passed by the state Legislature this month, would be a huge benefit to Pennsylvanians—it instructs the Department of Human Services to pursue a federal wavier to implement work and job search requirements for healthy adults without dependent children as a condition of Medicaid benefits.

But Gov. Wolf says he’ll veto the legislation.

“Implementing work requirements for able-bodied adults on Medicaid would encourage thousands to gain independence and pursue rewarding careers,” commented Elizabeth Stelle, director of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf has decided to keep hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians stuck in a cycle of poverty and dependence rather than pursue a proven reform.”

While three states have similar waivers pending before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement Medicaid work requirements, the policy is already helping thousands of SNAP (food stamp) beneficiaries gain independence in other parts of the country.

Strengthening work requirements has allowed former welfare enrollees to enjoy a higher  quality of life. For instance, former Kansas SNAP recipients saw an average 127 percent increase in income following strengthened work requirements. Likewise, income for adults in Maine who left  SNAP after the reinstatement of work requirements grew their income by 114 percent within a year.

A Medicaid work requirement waiver would affect nearly half a million Pennsylvanians.

“Work is the only permanent pathway out of poverty,” Stelle continued. “Instead of rejecting work requirements, the governor should embrace them.”

Elizabeth Stelle and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Jonathan Reginella at 717-943-1796 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.