Debt Ceiling Agreement Includes Inequitable, Ineffective, & Inefficient Work Reporting Requirements

The latest debt ceiling agreement threatens to take away food and cash assistance from people with low incomes—especially older women—if they cannot meet harsh work reporting requirements. The latest bill, which the House will vote on this week, would add another hurdle to accessing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for older Americans ages 50-54 and doubles down on existing SNAP time limits for childless adults under 50 and existing work requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Work reporting requirements are inequitable, ineffective, and inefficient. And efforts to address our nation’s long-term finances should not come at the expense of people experiencing poverty.
Work reporting requirements are steeped in racism. Policymakers first debuted the SNAP work-hours test in 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Responsibility Act (PRWORA), a law that also slashed cash assistance. Anti-Black racism and xenophobia played a foundational role in PRWORA’s creation and passage. The results of this change are well known by social policy experts and people experiencing poverty alike; they were also predicted by one of us (Peter): PRWORA resulted in an increase in poverty, particularly among families of color. One month later, Peter resigned as an Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services due to profound disagreement with the law.
Increasing burdens, like work reporting requirements, only hurts employment. Overwhelming evidence shows that taking food away from working families doesn’t improve employment or earnings and likely deepens poverty over time. SNAP already has significant work-based limits, which have taken away benefits from hundreds of thousands of people while not increasing employment. This latest agreement doubles down on the time limit. Work requirements also don’t account for the realities of today’s labor market. Most SNAP participants work, but many work volatile, unstable jobs and face systemic barriers—such as caregiving responsibilities or discrimination—that stand between them and finding quality, stable, and secure employment. Work requirements don’t work—they just make people suffer. And it’s harder to find work when you don’t have enough money to eat.
Burdensome red tape required to administer work requirements is costly to administer and time intensive for all involved. This bill would require SNAP and TANF program administrators to spend more time implementing these requirements, consuming critical state resources. During recessions, these resources are further constrained. SNAP, in particular, works to counteract the economic effects of a recession. Every SNAP dollar spent creates $1.54 in economic activity when the economy is weak.
If we want an America where everyone can provide for their families and has the opportunity to fulfill their potential, we need to remove barriers to work. Forcing people through a maze of burdensome paperwork takes us in the wrong direction.

Inclusive Policies for Immigrants Promote Economic Security

All who call the U.S. home should have the opportunity to thrive and support their families. Millions of immigrants and their families disproportionately face barriers to opportunity, and are unnecessarily excluded from public programs like CHIP, Medicaid, and the Child Tax Credit. Research shows that immigrant-inclusive public policy improves public health outcomes and reduces poverty. This blog highlights reforms needed to achieve a more equitable and prosperous society for everyone and improve the nation’s overall economic security and opportunity.

Subsidized Employment Can Help Fight Poverty in Good Times & Bad

Nearly 15 million people in the U.S. who would like to work are unable to find a job—despite a historically low national unemployment rate. This blog, published in partnership with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, highlights one policy tool that would help create jobs and boost earnings for people in disinvested neighborhoods and communities: subsidized employment. A half-century’s worth of evidence suggests that a large-scale subsidized jobs program would help ensure the communities typically left behind in periods of economic growth can share in the nation’s economic security and opportunity.

Healthcare justice for Puerto Rico

Medicaid is a core pillar of the U.S. healthcare infrastructure that helps ensure that everyone — regardless of income — can have access to quality care. But for decades, the federal government has treated Puerto Rico unequally, covering only half the share of the cost (in comparison to a maximum of 83 percent for states). And the amount of federal funding is subject to an extremely low, arbitrary and unstable cap set by Congress. The perverse result is that one of the poorest jurisdictions in the United States is treated as one of the wealthiest states for Medicaid funding — a program specifically designed to help people and families with low incomes access quality medical care.

How to fix segregation by college major and in the workforce

Over the past three decades, segregation across groups of majors, or fields of study, between women of color and White men has increased. This segregation threatens equal opportunity and contributes to a segregated workforce — which negatively impacts wages, job security and career mobility for millions of workers, especially women and Black and Brown people. Even as topline statistics on diversity in overall enrollment improve, higher education institutions shouldn’t miss critical opportunities to ensure that women and students of color are aware of, feel welcome in, and can participate in all fields of study. 

Why We Need #TamponsForAll

Price increases for basic necessities like tampons have a real cost. Period poverty—the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints—is a public health crisis deserving of a coordinated response that profit-driven private corporations are neither motivated nor prepared to provide. We need resilient supply chains that can be relied on to get basic necessities into the hands of the people who need them—and that will surely require public investment and accountability for powerful corporations.

Here’s how to boost employment for people facing tough times

Eighteen months after the largest job losses in U.S. history, unemployment is still high as workers, particularly Black and Hispanic workers, continue to struggle. While some indicators suggest the economy continues to recover, that recovery is uneven and fragile. America urgently needs a solution that supports workers, employers and communities alike, without leaving anyone behind. One proven and adaptable strategy that policymakers at all levels of government can mobilize now is subsidized employment.

Opinion: It’s time to make these expanded tax credits permanent

If you have kids, check your bank account on Thursday. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see $250 or $300 in your account with the letters “CTC” in the line item.If you have kids, check your bank account on Thursday. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see $250 or $300 in your account with the letters “CTC” in the line item. That’s because for the first time ever, we are recognizing raising kids as essential work with a bigger Child Tax Credit (CTC) for more families, and the option to get your tax credit as a monthly check or direct deposit.

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