Roby Votes to Clear Welfare-to-Work Fix Out of Committee

September 13, 2012
Press Release

U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today voted to clear legislation that would thwart the Obama Administration’s recent attempt to circumvent the “welfare-to-work” law and reinforce the strict requirements demanded by the successful program.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce gave a favorable report to House Joint Resolution 118, which would:
• rebuke the Obama Administration’s effort to circumvent Congress and weaken welfare reform,
• prevent the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing its plan to allow state waivers from work requirements, and
• affirm the strict, yet reasonable guidelines that made welfare reform so effective.

The measure could be up for a vote by the full House as soon as next week.

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised by the Obama Administration’s continued attempts to legislate via executive orders and bureaucratic regulations,” Rep. Roby said. “This time it comes with real-world implications for taxpayers. Welfare reform is one of the most meaningful bipartisan accomplishments of the last 30 years. There’s no question this policy has helped millions of Americans pull themselves out of poverty, due in large part to the strict requirements placed on states to ensure welfare recipients are seeking work.

“To wind back work requirements for welfare is a bad idea. To try to circumvent the law with bureaucratic tricks is wrong, and we’re putting a stop to it. If President Obama wants to amend ‘welfare-to-work, he needs to work through the legislative process.”

Welfare reform, officially known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, was passed by a Republican-majority Congress and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996. A key provision of the law shifted the program’s focus to ensure recipients look for, prepare for, and obtain work instead of idly remaining dependent on government assistance.

In July, HHS issued a memo announcing the Administration for Children and Families would be willing to offer waivers for some federal work requirements of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to allow states to implement “alternative” standards. While no state has yet applied for such a waiver, a 2005 Government Accounting Office (GAO) investigation found that some states were improperly counting activities such as exercise and “personal journaling” toward work requirements needed to receive welfare benefits. That year, Congress’ reauthorization of TANF sought to end such practices by directing HHS to be more specific in verifying states’ work requirements.

At no time was HHS authorized by Congress to waive legal work requirements for states.

Rep. Roby supports providing a safety net for those in need, but believes all welfare programs should seek to build self reliance and end government dependency, not the other way around.