Lawmakers Seek to Restore Dignity of Work

In the first press conference of 2018, House Republicans introduced a package of bills aimed at breaking generational poverty. Rep. Tobash urged reform given the desperate state of Pennsylvania's various assistance programs:

These are welfare programs that are stressed to provide the benefits that we need for our most vulnerable citizens, that are a deterrent to obtaining the dignity that comes with earning a living, and aren’t supplying the workforce that employers need in order to grow.

Rep. Aaron Kaufer added:

Additionally, this package of bills builds on the understanding that work and strong families are the foundation on which we will build our future. We need to help people gain independence, not continue a life of dependence. We thank the members of our leadership team who have focused on this issue in the past, and are happy to be working on this issue again in 2018.

Among more than 20 reform bills is HB 1659, which would require healthy adults on food stamps to work or train for work at least 20 hours per week, be enrolled as a full-time student in higher education, or volunteer at least 24 hours per month. When Kansas and Maine restored food stamp work requirements, individuals who returned to work more doubled their income within a year. If Pennsylvania enacts similar reforms, an estimated 80,000-100,000 people will rejoin the workforce.

Another important reform, HB 1788, would create a four year time limit on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Pennsylvania to encourage families to become self-sustaining through work. A recent study of families in Kansas leaving TANF after time limits were reduced found family incomes more than doubled in the first year and eventually tripled.

Work provides purpose and income and is the pathway out of poverty, but too often well-meaning extensions, exemptions, and waivers keep low-income families out of the workforce. Strengthening work requirements is the first step towards helping individuals transition to independence and self-sufficiency.