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Reforming Welfare and Expanding Opportunity for Low-income Families

June 08, 2018

Two years ago this week, (pictured below) House Republicans released their plan to expand opportunity for America’s low-income families and reduce poverty in our country. As part of the Better Way agenda—that included passing historic tax reform last year— this plan focused on helping Americans in poverty earn success through the dignity of work.

That plan was the foundation for the H.R. 5861, the JOBS for Success Act, recently passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. This bill refocuses the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to help move Americans off of the sidelines and into the workforce, where they’re badly needed.

There’s a jobs gap in this country. Thanks largely to tax reform, our economy is finally booming. American companies are expanding and job creators desperately need more workers to keep up with demand. There are more open jobs—now a record 6.7 million—than there are workers to fill them.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board agrees that reforms are needed, saying “the timing is right for these reforms amid a 3.8% jobless rate and worker shortages across the country.” No one, especially low-income families, should be left out of our growing economy. We want all Americans to be involved and for more to have good-paying jobs.

The JOBS for Success Act restores the promise of work from the bipartisan welfare reforms of 1996. Underscoring this objective, our legislation renames TANF to the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) program to reflect our commitment to the priority of work and what it does for families.

By increasing transparency and holding states accountable, we ensure taxpayer dollars are used to support work. What is currently a participation-based system is transformed to focus on results—more parents getting and keeping a job.

Unfortunately, since 1996, many states have strayed from the original purpose of the program, pulling funds away from the program and the families it is intended to serve to fill budget gaps in other areas. They have also pulled back from engaging parents on the caseload – with more than 40 percent of work-eligible parents not reported to be doing anything in exchange for benefits. Our legislation requires states to use the funds on the families that need it most to engage them with the services they need to be successful in work.

Under the JOBS for Success Act, states will be required to report on their program’s effectiveness and overall results. A publicly viewable dashboard will allow taxpayers to see how their money is being used and contrast programs across states on key questions including: are former welfare recipients getting jobs, are keeping those jobs, and what are they earning.

The objective of the JOBS for Success Act is clear and universal. Success will no longer be measured by participation, but by the end result—more Americans getting and keeping a job. Our children need them, our companies need them, and America needs them.