The Leaflet: Anti-Poverty Welfare Reforms Gain Momentum

Published March 24, 2016

In 2008 and 2015, The Heartland Institute produced the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card, the nation’s only comprehensive ranking of the states according to their welfare policies. States that performed the best were those that encouraged economic independence and were successful in reducing welfare rolls, poverty, and unemployment.

In 2015, Missouri passed a significant welfare reform bill, moving the state from 50th to 22nd in Heartland’s rankings. Arizona, Kansas, and Maine also made positive changes to their welfare policies based on recommendations in our report card. In 2011, Maine had 16,000 people enrolled in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare program. Today, it has only 6,000, and it led the nation in food-stamps decline in 2014, largely due to implementing work requirements we encouraged in our 2008 Report Card.

In 2016, many more states are considering anti-poverty welfare reforms, including Alabama, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, and Missouri. The five policies recommended in the Report Card include integrating welfare and social services, requiring work or work-related activities immediately upon qualifying for aid, cash diversion programs, lifetime limits on aid, and effective sanctions.

In March, Logan Pike, a state government relations manager for The Heartland Institute, traveled to Alabama to testify before the Alabama Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Senate Committee, where she encouraged the adoption of policies that would improve work requirements using sanctions and reducing time limits for benefit eligibility. During Pike’s testimony, she said, “We know that work is what lifts people out of poverty. If you look at 100 average full-time working adults, only three of them live in poverty. Even part-time work goes a long way. If you look at 100 average part-time working adults, 15 of them live in poverty.”

In a 2013 Cato Institute White Paper, Senior Fellow Michael Tanner and Research Assistant Charles Hughesm examined the current welfare system. The authors found welfare benefits continue to outpace the income most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job. They also found the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years. In their paper, they recommend, “If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.”

For more information on anti-poverty performance and welfare reform policies in every state, we have created a website,, where you can download Heartland’s full 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card or your state’s individual report card. The Web version of each report card includes a page explaining the study’s methodology and what the state needs to do to improve its grades.

The Heartland Institute’s Government Relations team welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about this study and how you can improve your state’s welfare system. Please call us at 312/377-4000 or e-mail Logan Pike at [email protected]

What We’re Working On

Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: Alabama Welfare Reform
A proposal from state Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) to reform Alabama’s welfare system would lower the lifetime limits on cash assistance, implement stronger sanctions for non-compliance, enact stronger work requirements for some of the state’s welfare programs, and create common-sense welfare fraud prevention practices, which would save taxpayer dollars and preserve taxpayer-funded welfare programs for those truly in need of help.

In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Logan Pike argues Alabama’s current set of welfare and anti-poverty programs disincentivize work, trapping welfare recipients in long-term poverty. “Legislators should continue to reform Alabama’s welfare system by adopting policies that improve opportunities for upward mobility and self-sufficiency.” Read more

Constitutional Reform         
Heartland Daily Podcast: The Article V Convention Movement
In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Kyle Maichle, project manager of constitutional reform at The Heartland Institute, speaks to a Tea Party group based out of Princeton, Illinois about the possibility of holding an Article V convention that could create an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would rein in the national debt and the federal government.

Maichle explains why we are seeing a push for constitutional reform. “We are facing an increasingly troubling financial situation. Currently, the federal debt stands at $19 trillion, and we are projected to continue budget deficits averaging $500 billion per year. Many of these pushes center around a desire for a federal balanced budget amendment,” said Maichle. He gives a roadmap on how to bring about an Article V convention and addresses the concerns that tend to prevent people from supporting this potential solution. Read more

Research & Commentary: Missouri’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council
In 2015, the Missouri General Assembly established the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council (CTEAC). The 11-member CTEAC advises the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is tasked with developing strategic plans for career and technical education and working with public and private entities to improve technical education. Missouri is now considering a bill that would direct CTEAC to establish minimum requirements for career and technical education certificates, which could be earned by students in addition to a high school diploma. In this Research & Commentary, Government Relations Coordinator Lindsey Stroud wrote, “If this new proposal is passed, it would give Missourians more job opportunities by encouraging alternative routes to obtaining jobs training without an expensive four-year degree. This would help reduce future student loan debt, strengthen the economy, and provide high school students with more career opportunities.” Read more

Energy & Environment
Study Says Ethanol Harms Corn Counties
A new study by researchers at Strata Policy (SP) and the Institute of Political Economy (IPE) at Utah State University suggests renewable fuel standards harm the very farmers the ethanol mandate was designed to help. “American taxpayers have spent $58 billion for direct ethanol subsidies alone since 1980, in addition to the costs added to the economy by the mandate. Per-capita income in the Corn Belt has dropped by $1,942.51 over the same period compared to $1,614.32 in the rest of the United States,” wrote the study’s authors. “Corn counties often lured ethanol refineries to their communities by offering tax incentives and special agreements, but the researchers found the communities suffered when those refineries struggled.” Read more

Health Care
Research & Commentary: Direct Primary Care Saves Union County, North Carolina $1 Million
In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Nathan Makla and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examine efforts by local legislators to promote direct primary care in North Carolina. “Direct primary care empowers patients and doctors, giving them more freedom to establish and participate in health-care-provider models that work best for all patients. North Carolina should remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to direct primary care and allow more public-sector employees to participate in a DPC system.” Read more

From Our Free-Market Friends
Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
The Ayn Rand Institute has released a short video promoting their new book Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
, written by bestselling authors Don Watkins and Yaron Brook. This is the first book to make the comprehensive case against inequality critics, such as Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Paul Krugman. Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of business magazine Forbes, praised the book, calling it “incisive, well-written, much-needed and powerful antidote to the pernicious ‘wisdom’ about income inequality.” Forbes also said, “The real problem is not free markets but arbitrary government power. An impressive achievement.” Read more