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PASSED: Committee Approves Key Welfare Reform Legislation

May 24, 2018

The Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), today approved the JOBS for Success Act (H.R. 5861) by a vote of 22 to 14. The next stop for this important welfare reform legislation is consideration by the full House of Representatives.

The JOBS for Success Act, sponsored by Chairman Brady and Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE), reauthorizes the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in order to help close the jobs gap – the difference between employers’ increasing demand for workers in a strong economy and the relatively low percent of working-age individuals in the workforce.

Chairman Brady said at the start of the markup:

We’re not going to give up on anyone, because everyone deserves a chance to accomplish their hopes and dreams, and right now the more than 7 million men who aren’t in the workforce can’t do that without a job.

The JOBS for Success Act restores the promise of the 1996 welfare reforms by requiring states to engage everyone who is work eligible, meaning no family in need gets left behind.”

Chairman Smith added:

“The Human Resources Subcommittee has held…four hearings in the past six weeks with 19 witnesses to discuss the jobs gap, and a legislative hearing to discuss a discussion draft proposal to reauthorize and reform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. …

“What we had heard was that our economy has finally turned around and there are millions of job openings across the country. … The JOBS for Success Act focuses on making sure truly needy families are provided meaningful access to the services and supports they need to move up the economic ladder – not just getting a check every month.”

This bill takes important steps to reform this welfare program to close the jobs gap. Specifically, the legislation:

  • Extends the TANF program for five years, as well as child care and related programs;
  • Ensures no one gets ignored or is left on the sidelines by requiring states to engage with every individual;
  • Measures work outcomes to hold states accountable for the intended purpose of the program;
  • Limits the use of funds to families who truly need it the most by requiring monthly income to be below 200% of the poverty level;
  • Focuses on work and activities that lead to work, ultimately creating the building blocks for people’s success; and
  • Renames the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS), to underscore our commitment to these reforms.

Throughout the markup, Republicans emphasized that, in large part due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, our economy is finally starting to fire on all cylinders: Jobless claims are at historic lowswages are rising, and economic optimism is at all-time highs. Because of this, it is crucial we act now to help close the jobs gap and keep this momentum moving in the right direction.

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) talked about how this bill strikes the right balance of promoting work while ensuring people get the attention they need to find and retain a job:

“With a resurgence in the American economy, it is important that we provide all Americans with the tools that are needed to be successful in today’s economy. We know that the best way to fight poverty is to have a good-paying job. In fact, when a parent works full time the poverty rate drops to just 3 percent. However…not every individual that needs a job is not prepared to enter into the workforce. That is why the [JOBS for Success Act] strikes the right balance of promoting work and ensuring TANF recipients receive the individual attention that they need.”

Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) stressed that the time to act is now:

“This is the moment you have a goldilocks economy. Let’s take advantage of it and get as many of our brothers and sisters into those opportunities.”

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) dismissed the notion that this program just needs more funding, noting that it’s results – people getting and keeping a job – lawmakers need to focus on:

“TANF doesn’t need more money; it needs to be fixed. TANF has been turned into a welfare program for states to fill budget holes. We need to reclaim TANF dollars to support needy families at work. … We can throw as much money at this problem as we want, but throwing money is not the answer – it’s using the hard-earned money from American taxpayers to get a positive result on it.”

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) echoed this, saying:

“Success of these programs should be about meaningful, lasting results that move people off of welfare and into the workforce for the long term. That’s what the JOBS for Success Act does – it focuses on the outcomes of getting a job and keeping a job.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) said job creators are hungry for workers, and this bill will help solve that:

“We don’t have enough workers. We have a lot of opportunity and we need to get these people engaged.” 

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) noted that this legislation is about accountability so that states are helping our workers pursue these careers:

“This is a bill about accountability and responsibility. This is a bill that’s designed to hold states accountable. This is a bill that addresses the fact that some states have been misusing their funds and spending it on things other than what they’re intended to be spent on – to help those people that really need it. This bill is designed to get the money to people who really need help. That is what we’re focused on.”

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) said this is about making this important program more efficient and effective for our workers:

“When we think about the TANF program, like anything in government, we should always be looking at how we can make it more efficient, effective, and accountable. That’s exactly what we’re doing with this piece of legislation.”

Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) stressed that this legislation will help families by providing greater access to child care:

“I do believe we have an agreement on the importance of child care in this process. … I’m grateful that this legislation includes many meaningful reforms that will help families get off welfare and get back to work. Specifically, with regard to child care, I think we can all agree child care is an important work support for low-income working families that can help people return to the workforce where they otherwise wouldn’t. … This [bill] will improve access to child care for families on welfare and will ultimately help parents reenter the workforce and provide more for their families.” 

The Ways and Means Committee looks forward to continuing its work to help close the jobs gap as this bill moves to the House floor.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the JOBS for Success Act.