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February 2, 2016

Why Losing Welfare Benefits Helps Welfare Recipients


What do you call a situation where 1.1 million food stamp recipients in 21 states lose their food stamps because they failed to meet work requirements?  A good start!

As part of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, most welfare recipients were required to work in order to receive benefits.

That requirement wasn’t meant to be cruel or heartless, as liberals portrayed it both then and now.  It was meant to change an entitlement mentality that had emerged since President Lyndon Johnson’s misnamed “War on Poverty,” where millions of Americans had come to expect the government—i.e., taxpayers—to provide their basic needs.

But liberals at the state and federal levels looked for every opportunity to undermine the law by watering down the work requirements.  And they got a golden opportunity when the 2007 recession hit.  Unemployment ballooned and officials relaxed the requirements. 

But now that unemployment has dropped to the 5 percent range, the work requirements—which can include volunteering and job training—are returning.

According to an Associated Press analysis, about 1.1 million food stamp recipients could lose them soon, which engenders the usual complaints about how hard it is to find a job.

And to be fair, it is hard to find a job in the Obama economy, which is why so many people have quit looking.

But here’s why a work requirement to receive food stamps, or any type of welfare benefit, is important: it weans out people trying to take advantage of the system.

As an Oregon welfare reform pilot program demonstrated in the 1990s, when people looking for welfare benefits were told they would have to work for their benefits, about a third walked out saying if they had to work they’d find their own job. 

Their departure allowed social workers to focus on those who really needed help, especially those who had lost job skills, were pregnant, struggled with substance abuse, etc. 

Requiring people to work for welfare benefits—even if it’s just sweeping a room—isn’t punishment.  It’s a way to reemphasize the notion that you don’t get something for nothing.


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