Monday, December 22, 2014

Republican Governors Push to Reshape Welfare Programs in Their States

A large number of Republican governors are pushing to reshape social-welfare programs with drug testing or other requirements, arguing that the new rules better prepare recipients for employment and assure taxpayers that the benefit money is well spent.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, fresh off his re-election, said he would propose his state join several others in mandating drug screening for people seeking nutrition or cash assistance. Utah Republicans want to require that certain residents allow the state to assist them in finding a job if they want to collect benefits through Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income and disabled Americans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is proposing Medicaid recipients kick in at least a few dollars a month as a condition for receiving benefits.
Critics say the new welfare requirements, particularly drug screening, unfairly target low-income people and are aimed at cutting recipients off the benefit rolls. Many of the efforts have run into resistance from the Obama administration, though federal courts have also limited the state push.
Still, the efforts by Republican-led states are challenging the political and legal boundaries that govern the way government provides assistance to the poor and provide another example of how GOP control of state governments, which grew after the midterm elections, is affecting policy. Congressional Republicans have signaled they want to look at overhauling federal welfare programs next year and may mine the states for ideas, as they did ahead of a major overhaul done in the mid-1990s.
“I support his efforts,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), expected to be a chief architect of any new standards next year, said of Mr. Walker’s push. “We want to give our governors the ability to craft their own proposals.”
Mr. Walker, in an interview, said his state’s drug-screening plan is intended to ensure that welfare recipients are drug-free and eligible for work.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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