Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMN: States Should Curb Government Assistance

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

GUEST COLUMN: States Should Curb Government Assistance

Article excerpt

Under the Obama administration, "reforms" to federal assistance programs have simply increased the programs' recipients and spending rather than implementing more oversight or accountability. Specifically, the administration has taken proactive steps to recruit Americans into programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and water down eligibility requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. Work requirements for recipients, previously tied to TANF eligibility since 1996, were rendered optional by the Department of Health and Human Services for state enforcement in 2012.

These work requirements have now been waived by nearly every state in the union. Categorical eligibility has been shamelessly promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to increase SNAP participation by individuals who would not meet SNAP eligibility requirements standing alone, but are deemed automatically eligible given their participation in other assistance programs. And, of course, all of this expansion requires more taxpayer dollars year after year.

It is perplexing that the executive branch of a country that is

$17 trillion in debt appears to want more Americans in a very expensive system that can lead to a lifetime of government dependency and no pressure to work.

Still, the federal government's pocketbook is not the only one to be considered when it comes to welfare and food stamps. In FY2012, the state of Alabama spent roughly $80 million in state money on TANF and $40 million on SNAP. Of course, these numbers do not scratch the surface of what the state spends in total on entitlement programs each year.

While welfare caseloads expectedly increased during the recession, many states have sustained these increased numbers even six years later. As such, both traditionally conservative and liberal-leaning states have looked for opportunities to tighten eligibility requirements and put in place policies that they hope will get more individuals back into the work force. Currently, states have the greatest flexibility over the administration of TANF.

This session, we have seen Alabama's Legislature consider several proposals to bring Alabama's TANF programs in line with practical reforms of other states. …

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