Work Requirements Fight Cruelty of Welfare Dependency

Participation in the federal food stamp program is at an eight-year low. The economy and fraud-busting tactics on the part of the Trump are getting a lot of the credit for this decline. There are also suggestions about changing the program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to allow for a work requirement for benefits eligibility.

Project 21, the National Center’s black leadership network, recommends a work requirement for SNAP benefits in its “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America.” On the Fox Business Network program “Varney & Co.,” Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper pointed out how getting people into the workforce is the best way to shrink peoples’ dependence on handouts:

What you need to be doing is being in the workplace, being in the workforce and moving toward independence.

Our American peoples’ generosity has always been predicated on helping people as they found themselves in trouble to a point where they can become independent. It has never been a promise of a lifetime of dependency.

Host Stuart Varney asked Horace if there should exemptions for people such as single mothers from having to work. Horace noted there are options available to meet familial obligations while gaining a foothold in the workforce and better provide for children over the long-term. He pointed to the success of the work requirements included in welfare reform measures enacted in 1996:

What we saw was a boom in employment. What we saw was a large number of people who had had multiple-generational experience in poverty move from dependent to independence.

There’s a role that grandpa and grandma can play. A role that employers can play in providing daycare. Even some of our schools have expanded this kind of services that they need.

This isn’t an issue of a mother trapped at home providing care with no options. What we’re talking about are the large number of people who are sitting in this economy – not taking advantage of the extraordinary growth that we’ve not seen in my lifetime…

We would be cruel if we told those who are needy and dependent you can opt out of it.

In its Blueprint, Project 21 recommends enhancing black opportunity in the employment market through:

Improving welfare reform, including more work requirements for eligibility in programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), in recognition of past success in reducing the number of people requiring government assistance.

Project 21 cited the Farm Bill (H.R. 2), which has now passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, as compliant with the Blueprint because is contained a SNAP work requirement. Several Project 21 members, including Horace, also met with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to discuss HUD’s proposal to include a work requirement for eligibilty for public housing assistance (which was also considered Blueprint Compliant).

In addition to welfare work requirements, Varney also asked Horace about the idea of a universal minimum income. Horace also thought that setting people up to accept a subsistence income was a cruel concept:

Well, besides being looney, the first thing I would say is that we don’t need to create dependency. What we need to do is say to people: “Your goal is not how much minimum you can get but why can’t we get you to aspire to a maximum.”

The public housing that we provided. The public health care that we provided. The public food assistance that we provided over 45+ years has never been amazing, has never been remarkable.

Basic income wouldn’t be any different. The thing is it would trap – it would operate as a magnet – and it would trap more people. It is cruel to say to someone: “You, your child and your grandchild are gonna be stuck in this cycle of dependency and poverty.

The basic minimum income idea, if it wasn’t so looney, the cruelty behind it would be obvious.

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