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  • Preserving the Welfare Work Requirement and Tanf Extension Act of 2013

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2013-03-13

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I am voting against H.R. 890 because it, just like nearly identical legislation brought before the Ways and Means Committee last year, is based on partisan charges that have been widely discredited by independent fact checker. It would also block new and innovative ways to move more people from welfare to work. At a time when Congress confronts so many pressing issues, not the least of which is preventing the misguided cuts in the sequester from hurting our economy, H.R. 890 is a step in the wrong direction.

    H.R. 890 prevents the administration from pursuing flexible, innovative ways to return people to work. As Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius informed our committee, ``the Department is providing a very limited waiver opportunity for states that develop a plan to measurably increase the number of beneficiaries who find and hold down a job. Specifically, Governors must commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work compared to the state's past performance.'' The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in reviewing the administration's authority to permit demonstration projects, found that the current waiver initiative is ``consistent'' with prior practice. The CRS review found that dozens of waivers for demonstration projects have been approved in the past when their subject matter has been referenced in Section 402 of the Social Security Act (just as the administration currently proposes). CRS also found nothing in the law bars Secretary Sebelius from providing waivers related to employment activities in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

    H.R. 890 seems more focused on politics than on policy. On that basis, and because it would impede progress in helping more welfare recipients move into work, I oppose this legislation.

    Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in opposition to H.R. 890--Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013.

    This bill prohibits the Secretary of HHS from using longstanding authority to issue waivers that allow states to conduct demonstration projects under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. It also reauthorizes the TANF program through December 31, 2013.

    In Texas over 68,000 families receive TANF benefits. TANF is a block grant program to help move recipients into work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance.

    In order to receive the maximum TANF benefit, families must be in compliance with work requirements and no one may remain on TANF for more than 60 months. Federal TANF law requires states to penalize families that fail to meet these requirements.

    In response to a request from a bipartisan group of governors for more flexibility, the Obama Administration said the federal government would consider waiving existing work participation requirements for states that were experimenting with ``new, more effective ways'' of helping welfare applicants find work, ``particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.'' The Administration hasn't gotten rid of the work requirement or laid out a new theory of what it ought to include. It has given states the ability to seek executive branch approval for new methods.

    This legislation is not needed, for no state has requested a waiver. This is the second time this bill has been introduced, as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

    The House should focus on extending TANF benefits to needy families in the country.

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