The Alabama House State Government Committee is considering a bill that would prohibit the state’s Department of Human Resources from requesting exemptions from federal work requirements for able-bodied individuals receiving welfare.
House Bill 6, introduced by state Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant), was referred to the committee on January 9 for consideration and debate.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a request from Alabama to waive enforcement of work requirement provisions of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. Alabama began complying with the law’s work requirements in 2016 and 2017.
‘An Essential Component’
Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says every welfare program should include work requirements.
“Work requirements are an essential component of any welfare program,” Glans said. “One of the biggest problems with SNAP, and a primary reason it grew so rapidly during the recent recession, is that most states do not require recipients to actively seek employment.”
Glans says work requirements save taxpayer money and benefit welfare recipients.
“States that have enacted work requirements have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of SNAP recipients,” Glans said. “States should require all able-bodied recipients to engage in work-related activities to be eligible for food stamps, and lawmakers should reform other government assistance programs that trap low-income Americans in poverty by dis-incentivizing work.”
Keeping Work Requirements
Patrick Hedger, director of policy at FreedomWorks, says states shouldn’t ask for work-requirement waivers.
“There’s no reason to get rid of these requirements, even during the worst recession possible,” Hedger said. “The work requirements aren’t that you need to have a job. It just means that you are doing something that is working towards getting a job.”
Ending the Poverty Trap
Hedger says PRWORA’s work requirements help free people from poverty.
“They [work requirements] are one of the best ways to combat what is known as the poverty trap,” Hedger said. “Basically, the combination of both state and federal welfare programs, including SNAP, reaches a certain level where picking a job would actually result in reduced benefits and reduced take-home pay. It creates a massive disincentive for folks to actually work more hours or get a job at all.”