Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday night that is intended to strengthen work requirements for recipients of various welfare programs, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.
Issued late at night, with no fanfare, and in private, the order seeks to implement “common-sense reforms” that would get at least some recipients off welfare and back to work. Some of those proposed reforms include strengthening existing work requirements for welfare programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), cash assistance programs, Medicaid, and housing assistance programs.
This is not the first move the Trump administration has made toward tightening up work requirements for public assistance programs. Back in January, the administration proposed allowing states to impose work requirements for Medicaid. Similarly, the January proposal allows states to tighten existing requirements that able-bodied adults who want to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months at a time must work in some capacity.
Trump’s executive order, named Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility, takes those existing proposals a step further, according to Vox. Specifics are few, but the order requires federal agencies to enforce current work requirements, to propose newer and stronger requirements, to find savings (or as Vox writer Tara Golshan puts it, “make cuts”), and to give states more flexibility to run their own welfare programs.
In the order, Trump notes that welfare programs, which are intended to reduce poverty, actually enable poverty and promote government dependence.
“Since its inception, the welfare system has grown into a large bureaucracy that might be susceptible to measuring success by how many people are enrolled in a program rather than by how many have moved from poverty into financial independence.”
Similarly, Trump policy adviser Andrew Bremberg notes that tightening work requirements for welfare recipients will help move Americans from government dependence.
“Part of President Trump’s effort to create a booming American economy includes moving Americans from welfare to work and supporting and encouraging others to support common-sense reforms that restore American prosperity and help them reclaim their independence.”
However, Rebecca Vallas, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, tells the Tribune that well-meaning efforts to push welfare recipients to work puts vulnerable recipients at risk.
“By using dog-whistle terms like ‘welfare,’ Trump’s trying to paint people who turn to Medicaid, SNAP, and other public programs as Reagan’s mythical ‘welfare queen’ — so we don’t notice that he’s coming after the entire working and middle class.”
Further, says Vallas, the administration should focus on increasing the minimum wage, rather than slashing public assistance programs.
“If Trump were serious about helping the ‘forgotten man and woman’ he pledged to fight for during his campaign, he’d be addressing the real problems trapping Americans in poverty — like the poverty-level minimum wage that’s remained stuck at $7.25 for nearly a decade.”
In fact, notes the Tribune, most households receiving SNAP aid do work — they just don’t earn enough money to put food on the table.