Welfare Work Requirements Return In Tennessee

Published October 11, 2017

Next year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will start enforcing work requirements for food stamp recipients living in 70 of the state’s 95 counties.

In September, Haslam announced plans to reinstate federal work requirements for welfare recipients in most of the state, starting in February 2018.

After the work requirements are reinstated, able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps will be required to either work 20 hours a week, volunteer, or engage in job training or educational activities.

Currently, the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996’s work requirement provisions are enforced in only seven counties.

The work requirements were waived in 2008.

Win-Win Situation

Jonathan Ingram, a vice president of research with the Foundation for Government Accountability, says everyone’s a winner with work requirements.

“Research from other states that have implemented these common-sense work requirements have witnessed able-bodied adults go back to work in record numbers and more than double their incomes on average,” Ingram said. “Those higher wages more than offsets the welfare benefits they lost, meaning more income for former enrollees, greater economic activity, and higher state and local tax revenue.”

Helping People Help Themselves

Finding a job is a proven cure for poverty, Ingram says.

“The amount of time the average able-bodied adult spends on welfare is cut in half after work requirements are reinstated,” Ingram said. “With fewer able-bodied adults dependent on welfare, states can refocus the program on the truly needy.”

Expects ‘Positive Impacts’

Lindsay Boyd, a director of policy at the Beacon Institute, says she expects work requirements to promote people’s prosperity.

“I do expect to see positive impacts on our unemployment rates, as well as greater outcomes for individuals,” Boyd said.

Boyd says states with similar work requirements have experienced positive results.

“We know that states that have maintained or reinstituted work requirements for able-bodied working age adults without dependents receiving welfare benefits have seen an increase in the percentage of those individuals who find gainful employment, and an increase in their earnings,” Boyd said, “Incentives work, and the progress made in welfare reform both nationally and at the state levels have proven this.”

Getting Back To Work

Reinstating work requirements encourages people to take charge of their lives, Boyd says.

“Tennesseans are finding gainful employment and opportunities to provide for their families,” Boyd said. “Reinstating work requirements will help to further encourage those who’ve dropped out of the job market to re-enter, and better their circumstances.”