President Donald Trump has signed an executive order calling for a reevaluation of the nation’s welfare programs. The executive order says: “The Federal Government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in Federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty.”
The president wants federal agencies to establish or strengthen existing work requirements for certain individuals who benefit from federal welfare programs. The heads of the departments of Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Education have been directed to review the public assistance programs within their agencies. They are expected to submit a report with a list of recommended changes within 90 days.
Enrollment in welfare programs remains high despite the strong economy. Most government programs already include work requirements for able-bodied adults, but critics have argued that the requirements are too loose. Those fighting against the imposition of more stringent work requirements cast it as an effort to punish poor people.
Trump has spoken previously about too many people taking advantage of safety net programs, especially able-bodied workers. According to a report cited by the White House, more than 16 million “able-bodied adults” received assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2016. In January 2018, there were more than 74 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including a record 28 million able-bodied adults.
The White House issued a memo that specified the creation of new work requirements and the strengthening of previous requirements for those who are able to work. The order indicates that the overhaul of the welfare programs will be extensive, involving the streamlining, consolidation, and/or elimination of services. The order does not detail which specific programs will be subject to the requirements.
Some GOP lawmakers have advocated for stronger work requirements, saying that those who rely on welfare would have an easier time achieving economic mobility if they are required to work, or be actively looking for work, to receive benefits. White House domestic policy council director Andrew Bremberg said, “President Trump endorses reforms that ensure those in need receive assistance, while eliminating the economic stagnation that has resulted from long-term government dependence.”