Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State May Add Work Requirement to Two Aid Programs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State May Add Work Requirement to Two Aid Programs

Article excerpt

Two bills before a state House committee would impose work requirements on two different safety net programs, in what has become an ongoing policy fight between the state's Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic governor.

A vote by the Health Committee on both pieces of legislation is expected as early as Tuesday.

House Republicans have said the so-called "welfare" changes are a major priority of their caucus and have put forth a number of bills they say would save taxpayers money without hurting the needy. Democrats and many advocates for the poor have said the proposed changes would mainly produce red tape without any actual savings and would do little to make people self-sufficient.

Adults receiving food stamps would be required to work or "participate in a work program" an average of 20 hours a week, perform 24 hours of community service each month, or be a full-time student under House Bill 1659. The bill wouldn't apply to people with disabilities or single parents with custody of children under age 12, according to a copy of the legislation.

"Those who are able to work should be required to work or prepare for work in exchange for taxpayer paid assistance. It is only fair for taxpayers that those who are able to help themselves do so," said state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill, in a memo seeking co-sponsors for the legislation.

Currently, those referred to as "able-bodied" adults without dependents have a three-month limit on food assistance in certain parts of the state, depending on local unemployment figures.

"Work requirements add expansive and cumbersome red tape, both to monitor work hours among workers who may have variable schedules, as well as to determine whether individuals with health problems should be exempt," wrote Louise Hayes, supervising attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which opposes the changes. "HB 1659 is particularly harsh and short-sighted because it cuts off food assistance for unemployed people specifically in areas of high unemployment."

House Bill 2138 would require the state to apply to the federal government "to require work or community engagement as a condition of eligibility" for Medical Assistance, the state's Medicaid program. …

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