By SUSAN McFARLAND, UPI
July 12 (UPI) — A White House report said Thursday most Americans living in poverty who receive government benefits are not working, even though they are able to — a published backing for the Trump administration’s plan to impose new work requirements for welfare recipients.
The 66-page report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers said poverty numbers of non-disabled adults are “a deeply flawed reflection of material hardship.”
The study said most non-disabled working-age adults who receive Medicaid, 61 percent, do not work or work very few hours.
The other two major welfare programs, Medicaid and food stamps, have similar numbers. The report said more than two-thirds of SNAP food stamp recipients and 59 percent who receive housing assistance are unemployed.
The report follows a district court ruling last month that blocked Kentucky’s plan to require work and monthly premiums for some recipients to receive Medicaid.
U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said the Trump administration failed to consider whether changes in Kentucky laws could help the state furnish assistance. The judge said the federal decision to allow work requirements is “arbitrary and capricious.”
Kentucky imposed the requirement in January and it would have taken effect last month if it hadn’t been blocked in federal court. The law mandated 80 hours of work or other employment activity per month.
In April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to add and strengthen work requirements for public assistance and other welfare programs.
The order intends to “increase self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility” by encouraging federal agencies to promote employment for individuals on public assistance who are able to work. The move also addresses concerns about wasteful spending, in that some recipients could be lackadaisical in finding work because they already receive a government funds.
Thursday’s report said expanding work requirements would help with decades of declining self-sufficiency and improve outcomes for developing children.
“The timing is ideal for expanding work requirements among non-disabled working-age adults in social welfare programs,” the report said. “As was the case in the period of welfare reform in the mid-1990s, current labor markets are extremely tight and unemployment rates are at very low levels, even for low-skilled workers.”
“Quite the opposite of harming people, expanded work requirements can improve the lives of current welfare recipients and at the same time respect the importance and dignity of work.”
Critics, though, argue adding a mandate to work for impoverished Americans defeats the purpose of government aid.
“The purpose of Medicaid is to provide medical insurance to people who cannot afford it, not to create barriers to coverage,” Anne Marie Regan of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center said earlier this year. “Demonstration waivers are supposed to make access to healthcare easier. [The work requirement] does the opposite. It is not only in violation of Medicaid law but is immoral.”