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Chairman Boustany Opening Statement: Lessons Learned from Welfare Reforms in Other Countries

November 17, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on lessons learned from welfare reforms in other countries.

“Good afternoon.

“This hearing is the final hearing in our series on moving America’s families forward.

“In February of this year, I announced this Subcommittee would undertake a top-to-bottom review of our nation’s safety net and how federal welfare policies can better support work, strengthen families, and help people escape poverty and move up the economic ladder.

“In the months since, we’ve held hearings on using evidence to fund what works, reforming Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to make it more successful, and protecting taxpayers from fraud and waste. We held our first joint hearing in at least 20 years with our colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to discuss how our programs can better reward work. And we reviewed the complicated array of programs designed to help people in need, highlighting how this maze makes the welfare system confusing for states to operate and frustrating for families to navigate. But most importantly, we have heard from real people—those who are experiencing our safety net programs first hand—to find out what they really need to find work and escape poverty.

“In the mid-1990s, this Subcommittee was instrumental in developing and passing legislation to reduce welfare dependence by supporting and encouraging work. The resulting 1996 welfare reforms, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president, brought about major changes in how federal programs assisted those in need. As a result of those reforms, the number of people receiving welfare declined significantly. Employment rates rose for those most likely to be in poverty. And the percentage of children living in poverty fell as well. Other countries took note of these changes, and many began experimenting with ways they could reform their systems as well to help more people move off of welfare and into work.

“While welfare reform in the United States spurred other countries to undertake their own reforms, in many cases other countries have now gone well beyond the reforms we made in the 1990s. For example, other countries have implemented policies such as requiring work or work preparation in exchange for benefits in multiple programs, revising eligibility standards to target benefits to those most in need, consolidating or coordinating programs to simplify their systems, working with non-governmental groups to deliver key benefits and services, and holding programs accountable for achieving real outcomes.

“Today’s hearing will highlight specific changes other countries have made to modernize their safety net so more people get the help they need to get back on their feet. We will also hear how the lessons learned in other countries can help us develop ideas to further reform the welfare system in the U.S.

“We welcome our guests today, and look forward to their testimony.”