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Despite Promises of Transparency, Obama Administration Suppresses Report That Would Detail Rise in Welfare Dependence

October 25, 2012

Washington, DC – A day after his inauguration, President Obama promised his Administration would be defined by its openness and transparency, proudly declaring, “I will also hold myself, as president, to a new standard of openness….Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”  Sadly, the Obama Administration has failed to live up to the President’s lofty rhetoric, and its record on transparency is littered with broken promises.  The latest example is the Administration’s withholding of Federal data about welfare receipt and dependence on government benefits.  Under a 1994 law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to issue annual reports on the degree to which Americans are dependent on various welfare benefits.  This 1994 law was authored by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), passed by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  Yet after nearly four years, the Obama Administration has never once issued this report.  
The 1994 law requires HHS to issue this report to leaders of key Congressional committees with jurisdiction over various welfare programs: the House Committees on Ways and Means; Education and the Workforce; Agriculture; and Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committees on Finance; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Today, the Republican House Chairmen and Senate Ranking Members of these Committees sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius asking for an immediate response as to (1) why HHS has failed to issue this report during her nearly four years as Secretary, and (2) when HHS expects to finally issue this report.  A copy of the letter is available here.

If issued, this report would reveal that dependence on government benefits has risen sharply during the Obama Administration.  All the more troubling is the fact that, while suppressing this annual report on welfare dependence for nearly four years, HHS recently took action to illegally waive work requirements for welfare recipients, which will result in even more welfare dependence.  

In their letter to Secretary Sebelius, the Chairmen and Ranking Members wrote, “HHS has failed to issue even one of these annual reports required by law during the nearly four years you have been Secretary.  It also means that the 2009 annual report is now more than 1,000 days overdue.”

Additional Background about the Indicators of Welfare Dependence Report:

Fact:  HHS is required by law to issue an annual report on welfare receipt and dependence.  Section 232 of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1994 declared that the “Secretary shall prepare annual reports on welfare receipt in the United States,” and that these reports must be submitted “annually thereafter.”

Fact:  This report details the degree of welfare receipt and dependence, with additional data broken out by age, gender, race, and family status.  Past reports have shown that welfare receipt is concentrated among female-headed families, that families on welfare are twice as likely to have no one working than to have someone in the labor force, and that welfare dependence often continues year after year. 

Fact:  Through October 25, 2012, 1,395 days have elapsed since the 2008 report was issued on December 30, 2008.  This means the “next” (that is, 2009) annual report is now more than 1,000 days overdue.  
  Previous Administrations faithfully complied with this annual report requirement, with annual reports being issued each year from 2000 through 2008.  Only the Obama Administration has failed to issue this report – in 2009, 2010, and 2011.