Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, denounced attempts to weaken welfare law in a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday. HHS announced that it was encouraging states to seek “waivers” of the section of the Social Security Act that governs administration of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
“We do not believe this guidance is supported by either the TANF or other relevant titles of the Social Security Act,” the letter said. Reforms made to welfare law in 1996 “promoted higher work and earnings and lower poverty and welfare dependence, and we will actively resist efforts to undermine the progress made since then.”
Mr. Camp, one of the authors of the welfare reform law passed by Republicans in 1996, is determined to ensure compliance with the successful program. “Welfare reform provided States a simple deal: fixed Federal funding and enormous flexibility in exchange for a requirement that they engage welfare recipients in work and related activities. In response, States helped record numbers of low-income parents go to work, earnings soared, and dependence on welfare and poverty plunged by record levels, he said Thursday. “Now 16 years later, the Obama Administration is proposing to let States effectively eliminate a key feature of that reform – the TANF work requirement. This is a brazen and unwarranted unraveling of welfare reform. This ends welfare reform as we know it.”
As chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Mr. Camp has oversight authority of the TANF program. His office said today that no decision has been made about whether a hearing will be held investigating HHS’s unprecedented act.