Guest Post from The Advocates Agenda: Welfare Reform Act of 2011 Unveiled

(Thanks to The Advocates Agenda and Cathy Palm for this post.)  

Welfare Reform Act of 2011 Unveiled
Caps spending on means-tested programs (e.g., Head Start, Title IV-E Foster Care, TANF, SSI, EITC, etc.)

March 17th - Earlier today members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), which began the 112th Congress with the Spending Reduction Act and a push for at least $100 billion in immediate cuts to federal spending – unveiled the Welfare Reform Act of 2011.

The legislation is being championed by RSC Chairman Jim Jordan as well as Congressmen Tim Scott and Scott Garrett.

In unveiling the legislation they cited a speech from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 that “launched the American welfare state.” At that time FDR said, “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit…”

RSC officials then remind that since the War on Poverty was first waged in 1964 America has spent $16 trillion in federal and state dollars on welfare programs. Spending that “grew by 292%” over the last two decades.

They frame spending on welfare programs over the next decade as $10.3 trillion even as the programs “have not achieved the stated aims of their authors, which was to reduce poverty and to increase self-sufficiency.”

A YouTube video talks about welfare spending as “a broken system that is bankrupting our country.”

Jordan said money is not the answer instead “We need a smarter approach that promotes self-reliance and acknowledges the interconnected nature of all our anti-poverty programs.” He continued that a job is “the most effective welfare benefit.”

The RSC is ready to put forth a plan that “reverses course” by requiring the following:

  • Complete disclosure of total “means-tested welfare expenditures (for the 77 existing programs”) in the President’s budget;
  • Imposing an “aggregate spending cap” on such programs limiting spending to 2007 (“pre-cession) levels “plus inflation growth”;
  • Enforce the spending cap;
  • “Extend work requirements to the Food Stamp Program;”
  • Tap $300 million of the current welfare spending for “grants to states that successfully reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency;” and
  • Prevent federal funding of abortion.

Included in the 77 welfare means-tested programs that would be subject to the spending cap (not the exhaustive list): Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Earned Income Tax Credit (Refundable Portion), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Title IV-E Foster Care, Title IV-E Adoption Assistance, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Healthy Start and Maternal and Child Health, Food Stamp Program, School Breakfast and Lunch, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Section 8 Housing, Homeless Assistance Grants, Rural Housing Services, Youth Employment Grants, YouthBuild, Title XX Social Services Block Grant, Family Planning, Head Start, Child Care and Development Block Grant, and the Community Development Block Grant.

Excluded from the cap: Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation and “any program designed exclusively or primarily for veterans of military service.”

The cap would not be in place, enforced until the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.5 percent or less. RSC officials stipulate that they are not requiring any cuts in a particular program because this is an “overall cap.”

Title I addresses the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program and is cited as the Welfare Reform Restoration Act. It reduces the TANF Block Grant by $1 billion to $15.6 billion and eliminates the modified caseload reduction credit.

Scanning the Title II work requirement section of the bill related to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as Food Stamps), several requirements stand out including:
  • No minor child can receive SNAP benefits unless they reside with an adult “who is the family head of the same family of which the child is also a member.” That adult must be “eligible to participate” and “lawfully residing and eligible to work” in the United States.
  • In single-headed households the adult would have to work at least 120 hours per month to qualify for SNAP benefits.
  • Married couples also would be required to work 120 hours per month with the requirement being a “single joint obligation” that can be met either by only one party working or their work hours being combined.
  • Where adults are obligated to participate in the “work activation program” and do not then “no member of the family unit shall be eligible to receive food stamp benefits” in the following month.

Work requirements will be fulfilled when a person is engaged in supervised job search, community service activities, education and job training, workfare or drug or alcohol treatment.

The three states with the “greatest percentage increases in self-sufficiency ratio of the state for the preceding fiscal year over the self-sufficiency ratio of the state for fiscal year 2007” would receive a grant of $100,000.

Self-sufficiency is defined as when a family (single or two-parent) have a combined income, “excluding means-tested welfare spending” exceeds the poverty line.


  1. This doesn't go far enough. Eliminate the separate purchase/preparation that allows two full grants in one home; get rid of the vast majority of "special allowances"; limit the "PD" category to true health sustaining medications and end the methadone bus. Put the responsibility back on the person receiving the benefits-CAO's bend over backwards to avoid an appeals process that is fully skewed toward giving benefits. "When in doubt, hand it out". Federal funding of abortion is already not done, hasn't been for years


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