Under President Trump, the economy is roaring.
In the wake of tax reform, the economy has grown at 2.9 percent annual growth in the past year, while the unemployment rate is at a 3.9 percent – the lowest level since 2000. Real disposable income rose 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018, and nearly 800,000 jobs have been created since tax reform passed in December.
However, job openings have hit a record high of 6.6 million and labor force participation remains low, indicating that more needs to be done to promote upward mobility and ensure that Americans have long-term employment.
Congress can take an active role in narrowing this jobs gap by reforming the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
H.R. 5861, the JOBS for Success Act, introduced by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE) reforms TANF to encourage and equip able-bodied adults with the tools they need to find long term work, while simultaneously protecting the vulnerable in our society.
In addition, these reforms will ensure states will spend resources more effectively.
As noted in a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states frequently do not spend funds on one of three core welfare programs (basic assistance, child care, and work programs). For instance, Michigan spends $100 million a year on college aid, much of which goes to families earning more than $100,000 per year, while Arizona spends half of its TANF funds on child welfare, rather than helping individuals return to work.
H.R. 5861 implements numerous reforms to strengthen the TANF program:
- The JOBS for Success Act ensures everyone eligible to find work can get work. Millions of men have left the workforces, so the Jobs program realigns TANF’s focus from single women (as the 1996 reform prioritized) to both men and women.
- The JOBS for Success Act holds states accountable. Currently, TANF measures the success of the program by the number of participants. The JOBS for Success Act realigns this incentive by making states accountable for tangible work outcomes, while giving them more flexibility to allocate funds where they are most appropriate. The bill also requires states to universally engage with struggling Americans to ensure that they get and keep a job.
- The JOBS for Success Act ensures that funds are going to those who need it most. The bill prioritizes funds to those under 200% of the poverty line to ensure that taxpayer dollars go to those who need it most. These funds will be used to support job training and child care services for those reentering the workforce.
- The JOBS for Success Act promotes innovation, transparency, and program coordination by allowing up to 50% of a state’s allocation to be transferred to the Child Care and Development Fund, child welfare (up to 10%), and workforce programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The legislation also recognizes that more government is not the answer and wisely does not increase spending over what the government is currently spending.
Since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society plan was enacted, the federal government has spent trillions of dollars on welfare programs with few tangible results.
The poverty rate in 2014 (14.8 percent) is actually worse than it was in 1966 (14.7 percent) before the vaunted Great Society programs were implemented. The current system fails to promote upward mobility – 34 percent of Americans raised in the bottom fifth of income remain there as adults.
Meanwhile, the costs of running these programs have skyrocketed. According to CBO, federal spending on welfare has nearly doubled between 2006 ($369 billion) to 2016 ($744 billion). When factoring in state government spending, total government spending on welfare programs already exceeds $1 trillion annually.
Without reform, CBO projects that federal spending alone will exceed $1 trillion by 2026.
Instead of throwing more money at federal programs, the JOBS for Success Act ensures that funds are responsibly used for the purpose this money is intended for. Reforming TANF will build on the success of tax reform by promoting upward mobility so that Americans can get a job and keep their job.