May 11, 2016 Print

Image credit: Foundation for Government Accountability

Update: On Tuesday, May 16, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a new bill into law “that will reduce the number of months families can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Brownback said the tighter deadlines will encourage people to re-enter the workforce sooner.” Read more at the Wichita Eagle website.

Lending a hand to those in need is a noble impulse, but welfare programs are usually designed to give too much, too often, to people who are left with decreased incentives to work, improve their skills, and build a better future for themselves and their families. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback spearheaded a set of reforms in 2013 establishing work requirements and time limits for benefits, finding in subsequent years that “Americans freed from welfare don’t just find a way to survive, they thrive,” Brownback reports in a recent commentary in the Hill, co-written with Tarren Bragdon, CEO of Atlas Network partner Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).

“When moved off food stamps, half of these Kansans began working immediately,” Brownback and Bragdon write. “Nearly three-fifths were employed within 12 months and their incomes rose by an average of 127 percent during that first year. Incomes kept increasing as they progressed to full-time work and increased their wages. Better still, those higher wages more than offset the food stamps lost, making them more financially secure. This is real success!”

In partnership with FGA, Kansas “completed the most comprehensive welfare tracking project of its kind,” matching more than 41,000 former welfare recipients with Department of Labor employment records. This helped provide not only broad statistical data about the success of work requirements, but also highlighted the power of individual stories, like a man who “languished on food stamps for almost five years” without an income before Kansas passed its welfare reforms. He began working shortly after being moved off the food stamp program, and today earns a $45,000 annual salary.

“Americans are understandably frustrated by the growth of welfare spending and they continue to see the negative effects long-term government dependence has both on a fiscal and moral level,” Bragdon said. “They’re looking for proven solutions to help lift their neighbors out of poverty and reduce the cost of government; the Kansas model provides both. At FGA we’re focused on passing these crucial reforms, and the media plays a critical role in highlighting not only the challenges facing state welfare programs, but more importantly, the solutions. We continue to hear positive feedback from leaders in the states, many of whom have read about our work through our contributions at outlets such as the HillForbes, TheBlaze, and many others.”

Helping people return to the labor force has saved Kansas taxpayers nearly $50 million per year in welfare expenditure savings, as well as facilitating an influx of productive workers who generate new wealth in the state economy.

“Americans know the value of hard work,” Brownback and Bragdon conclude in their Hill commentary. “That’s why common-sense work requirements were core to the bipartisan 1996 welfare reform that turns 20 this year. Now is the perfect time for Congress to expand work requirements and time limits for non-disabled adults on all welfare programs – including Medicaid, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, food stamps, and housing. It’s time to start holding states to asset tests for all welfare programs. It’s time to return welfare to the truly needy and stop trapping Americans in government dependency.”