Time for Welfare Work Requirements

Yesterday, welfare work requirement bills HB 2138 and HB 1659 moved out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

This move ensures welfare reform will be a focus of the 2018-19 budget negotiations. The Department of Human Services (DHS) accounts for more than 40 percent of total spending and Medicaid alone consumes $7 billion, $27 billion when you include federal funds. These staggering figures are even more concerning considering Food Stamps enrollment is far above historical norms and Medicaid enrollment is at all time high despite a growing economy.

According to DHS, about 495,000 healthy Medicaid adults without young children report no wages and the Foundation for Government Accountability estimates 202,800 healthy adults on food stamps are not working. This is incredibly disheartening because we know the greatest anti-poverty measure is a job.

Last week, welfare reform expert Sam Adolphson noted, implementing work requirements “isn't cruel, it's caring.” Indeed, a paycheck is better than an EBT card and statistics show we badly need the talents of out-of-work Pennsylvanians. Nationally there are more job openings than people traditionally categorized as unemployed. In Pa., Help Wanted online reports more than 200,000 job openings.

Work requirements are popular too, with a bipartisan majority of Pa. voters supporting work-first reforms.

If the legislation clears the full Senate, Governor Wolf will have to decide if he will once again veto legislation to help thousands of Pennsylvanians raise their incomes, or follow the lead of 17 other states that require healthy adults without dependents to work or volunteer in order to raise their incomes.