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In May 2016, Senator Mike Lee (R–UT) and Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) introduced the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act. This legislation takes a number of significant steps towards reforming the nation’s massive and broken welfare system, which is fraught with out-of-control spending, fraud, anti-work policies, and marriage penalties.
The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act would take the most significant steps seen in decades to address these problems:
- Increasing accountability for means-tested welfare spending by requiring the President’s budget to report aggregate welfare spending
- Building on the principles of the 1996 welfare reform by expanding work requirements in the food stamp (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs
- Scaling back the federal government’s financing of housing assistance programs, thus encouraging greater state control and fiscal responsibility for welfare
Government currently spends over $1 trillion annually on over 80 means-tested welfare programs. These programs provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Means-tested welfare programs are spread across multiple government agencies, making it easy to obscure the total cost of government welfare spending. Federal budgets do not report the aggregate amount of spending on these programs.
The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act requires the President’s annual budget submission to include the aggregate cost of federal and state means-tested welfare spending for the most recent year and estimates of projected spending for the following nine years.
The massive U.S. welfare system is in dire need of reform. The 1996 welfare reform should have been a stepping stone towards greater reform rather than a stopping point. Now is the time to restart the momentum toward reform, and the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act would do just that. Addressing the many problems in the means-tested welfare system is a long-term effort. The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act sets the course and takes impressive strides toward that end.