Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Monday vowed to prevent the Obama administration from allowing states to waive work requirements in the Temporary Assistant for Needy Families (TANF) law, even though his own state had requested the waiver.
“Late last week, the Obama administration quietly released ‘guidance’ to the states informing them that the administration had granted itself authority to waive work requirements in TANF,” Hatch said on the Senate floor Monday. “In the 16 years since the creation of the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families, no administration has concluded that they have the authority to waive the TANF work requirements.”
The TANF program -- which helps poor families with children pay for living expenses such as rent, heat, utilities and personal care items -- requires those receiving payments to be employed or looking for work. Nearly four million Americans currently receive TANF payments.
“The Obama administration through this waiver scheme are attempting to unilaterally disarm the legislative branch of the government,” Hatch said. “I have no intention of letting this stand. I will shortly be introducing legislation to halt this risky scheme to gut welfare reforms. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with me.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week encouraged states to experiment with better ways to administer the program, informing officials that the department was willing to grant waivers to states that wished to opt-out of the work-requirement provision of the welfare law.
"When the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program was established as part of welfare reform in the 1990s, it was intended to give states flexibility to design effective programs to help parents move from welfare to work," George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, said. "Today, however, Federal rules dictate mind-numbing details about how to run a welfare-to-work program. Most States and experts agree that these aren’t helpful."
Two states with Republican governors, Utah and Nevada, have already asked for waivers. California, Connecticut, and Minnesota have also asked about waivers, according to the HHS.
"The new policy we announced will allow states to test new, more effective ways to help parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment," Sheldon added. "States can apply for waivers of federal requirements that get in their way. These waiver applications will be available for public review."