Mitt Romney’s latest critique of President Barack Obama — that he adopted a plan to “gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements” — has served as powerful fodder for racially charged attack ads (even if they do fail a basic fact-check).
The truth of the matter: States have been restricting aid to poor people since the beginning of the recession. And in Pennsylvania, work-for-welfare requirements have recently been stepped up, not relaxed. Thanks to a provision slipped into Gov. Tom Corbett’s new budget, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients will now be forced to apply for three jobs per week as soon as they submit their application. Previously, work requirements only kicked in once cash assistance — along with necessary child-care support and transportation allowances — had been approved.
“These new provisions will make it much harder for single mothers of young children to get the cash assistance and other supports they need while they look for work,” notes Kathy Fisher of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “Most penniless single mothers cannot look for jobs without a child-care subsidy and transportation allowance. There are already strict job-search requirements for parents once they start receiving cash assistance. There is no need to add this new requirement.” After a similar law was implemented in Georgia, the approval rate for welfare applications dropped from 51 percent to 22 percent in three years, according to Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.
The percentage of Pennsylvania’s poor served by welfare has already been cut in half since the passage of the 1996 welfare act. The state’s destitute are now in for more “reform” at the hands of Corbett — and maybe Romney, too.