Most people agree that a, “safety net,” Welfare System is good for society. For many there will be challenges in life for which an element of security is not only needed, but desired. Over and above what charitable organizations can handle perhaps. President Trump’s latest announcement regarding the Welfare System (specifically the Food Stamp program), has been met with a mixture of rapture and disgust. His plans to implement (or re-implement in some States) the Welfare to Work laws.
Though rarely publicized, this program is in fact already the law. It’s not new, but state waivers exempt welfare recipients from the program in many states. Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, said during a White House press briefing: “If you are on food stamps and you are able bodied, we need you to go to work,” he continued, “There is a dignity to work, and there’s a necessity to work to help the country succeed.”
President Trump had this to say:
“We must reform our welfare system, so that it does not discourage able-bodied adults from working, which takes away scarce resources from those in real need. Work must be the center of our social policy.”
The 2018 budget proposal has already drawn anger and condemnation from Welfare Reform groups and the Mainstream Media. However, their arguments are not being presented on a factual basis, but rather as an emotional call to arms. The Washington Post for example, used the case of a former Veteran who suffered greatly when the state of Maine chose not to renew their waver. It is a powerful and sad tale. Few would disagree that more needs to be done for our nation’s veterans. That being said, putting forth or rescinding a policy should be driven by facts rather than sad anecdotal tales.
A brief look at the larger picture in Maine shows that the non-renewal of the “waiver” has achieved one of two things;
- It has either gotten a lot of people back to work and off welfare,
- Or has stopped recipients fraudulently claiming Food Stamps. When the program began, there were 13,332 able-bodied non-elderly people in the state without dependents who were collecting food stamps. The recipients were then required (in order to keep receiving) to either get a job working at least 20 hours a week, enter a job-training program, or volunteer a minimum of 24 hours a month. Within four months that number dropped by 80%.
More than 9,000 people literally just stopped claiming benefits. It reduces fraudulent claims and encourages people to get back to work.
There are two key facts in this debate. The first is that it DOES NOT impact those who are elderly, not able-bodied, or who have dependants. The second is that the program only requires recipients to engage in (at the very least) 25 hours of volunteer work per month (less than one hour per day). If a person does not have dependants, is physically capable of work and is young enough to work, they WILL NOT lose the benefits if they work, get training to work or simply help others for an hour a day.
No government program is perfect. The individual stories of those adversely affected by Welfare For Work are misleading at best. There are just as many, if not more, stories of multi-generation dependence upon, and abuse of, the system. The question is, or should be, what benefits the most people with the least negative impact.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.