Charlie Harper: Georgia Pilots Welfare Work Requirement
Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
Starting at the beginning of this month, food stamp recipients in three Georgia counties who are “able bodied” and without dependents had to show that they either had a job or were in a job training program in order to continue to receive their taxpayer funded benefit. Volunteering at a non-profit for 20 hours per week would also meet the work criteria.
That shouldn’t seem like such a difficult burden. We are first talking about people physically able to work. We’re talking about people that don’t have the responsibility of caring for their children. Also excluded are those who are pregnant, and those currently receiving unemployment benefits.
Thus, we’re only talking about people who are able to work, aren’t working, have no children to care for, and don’t wish to be trained at the State’s expense for work. Currently, the state of Georgia will pay for tuition in several high demand career fields. These range from truck driving and welding to health sciences and practical nursing.
The pilot program is currently for residents of Cobb, Gwinnet and Hall counties with an eye toward a statewide rollout. The unemployment rates is very low in each of these counties, at 4.8% for Cobb, 4.9% for Gwinnett and 4.6% in Hall. Thus, those that want a job should be able to find one. Those who need to be trained have the state begging to train them and employers that need them.
There are almost three times the number of people receiving benefits under the SNAP program than there were just fifteen years ago. More than double the number of able bodied single adults have joined the program since 2008. Yet we’re no longer at the lows of the great recession, and we have jobs that are going unfilled. States are stepping in to restrict the flow of welfare dollars to those that truly need it.
The state of Maine has already rolled out a similar program statewide. According to the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, Maine saw an 80% drop in the number of those who fit into this category drawing food stamp benefits in the first 90 days of implementation. These results show that this requirement may be a good way to ensure that those who need the benefits continue to receive them, but those who would prefer to be taken care of by taxpayers rather than to work and become a taxpayer themselves will not.
This seems pretty simple, but nothing is ever simple in politics. On the eve of the program’s implementation here in Georgia, one of my progressive friends took to twitter to say “nothing like kicking someone when they’re down”, adding that Georgia is going in the “wrong direction”. Sigh.
There’s nothing wrong with telling someone who is able to work and has an employer willing to hire them that the taxpayers must continue to support them because work is too much trouble or just inconvenient. This isn’t taking food out of a hungry child’s mouth. This is telling an adult (again, only those adults that are physically able and have no dependents) that if they’re able to work, they will find a job or become prepared to get a job.
There are many hard working Georgians – many with dependents of their own - who work long hours, endure relatively low pay, and have the hardship of paying for transportation to and from work in order to pay taxes. Why should a single mom working two jobs to raise her kids have the taxes she pays go to pay for the food of an able bodied man to sit around “find himself” until a gig he feels suits him comes along?
Republicans would do well to start fighting battles on these terms. The populists within the GOP’s ranks are currently fighting what they perceive to be “the elites” in their own party. The GOP needs to find more ways like this to show that they are on the side of working Americans – and to demonstrate that the progressive left is moving to a world where no one should be denied government benefits, even if they are able bodied.
Charlie Harper is the Executive Director of PolicyBEST, a public policy think tank focused on issues of Business & Economic Development, Education, Science & Medicine, and Transportation. He’s also the publisher of GeorgiaPol.com, a website dedicated to State & Local politics of Georgia.