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Welfare Reform

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Ethical and Legal Concerns Regarding Welfare Reform
Daniel Smith
Business Law II, Park University

Outline
Ethical and Legal Concerns Regarding Welfare Reform

I. Current House Vote A. Welfare Reform Act of 1996

II. Course of Welfare Reform Act A. Prejudice B. Economy

III. What are President and Current Representatives saying regarding Act? A. Are Ethics being utilized properly?

IV. Primary Objective of Welfare Reform Act A. Decrease Reliance B. Requirements C. Statistics D. Social Workers

Some Democrats believe the 1996 welfare reform is better than the recommendations of the Obama Administration. “The House voted Thursday (September 20, 2012) to block the Obama Administration's unilateral weakening of welfare's work requirements, and political reporters are writing it off as a partisan primal scream if they notice at all.” (Unknown, 2012) All Republicans and nineteen Democrats showed their dislike of the current administrations path down the welfare reform road with an astounding 250-164 rout over welfare reform recommendations. That’s one-tenth of the Democratic caucus joining with the Republicans to say our people need welfare in its current state during these hard economic times. The Reform Act was started during the Clinton Administration in August of 1996. However, welfare has been a controversial issue since the 1960’s. It was not until the late 1980’s, when the citizens were concerned and asking for some kind of reform to the welfare system, the PRWORA (Personal Responsibility, Welfare and Opportunity Reconciliation Act) came into act. By 1996, Congress and President Bill Clinton finally passed and signed the PRWORA and the Welfare Reform Act drastically updated the nation’s Welfare system. They made stricter guidelines regarding the administration of Welfare Benefits, how funding was going to be administered to the recipients and who would be considered for these benefits. With the new Welfare Reform act some positive and negative effects took hold on citizens because some of the groups that were receiving the benefits were no longer eligible whereas some citizens living in poverty it gave them better opportunities. The welfare act was also set into place to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Children (TANF).
The 1996 law was debatably the most victorious policy change to assist low-income Americans in over 60 years. The welfare policies of the 1960s led unemployed generations of families to learn to deal with the benefits paid by the government at subsistence levels, in no way ensuring they were gaining the skills to work and with the smallest hopes to climb up and out. It took over than a decade for Congress to reverse the course.
“According to the U.S. government, welfare reform helped to move 4.7 million Americans from welfare dependency to self-sufficiency within three years of enactment. The overall federal welfare caseload declined by 54% between 1996 and 2004. Even more important, there is evidence that it improved the lives of those who moved off welfare. In the Berkeley Electronic Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy (2011), Santa Clara University's John Ifcher showed, using data from the General Social Survey, that single mothers—despite lost leisure time and increased stress from finding child care and performing household duties while working—were significantly happier about their lives in the eight years after reforms led them into the workforce. The central insight from welfare reform is that people flourish when they earn their success, and this requires real market work. They escape poverty—and they live dignified, better-ordered lives. They don't just move out of welfare; they move up from dependence on the government. When it comes to earned success, the administration's actions—from business regulation to taxation, and now welfare—speak louder than the president's words.” (Brooks, 2012)
Some critics believe that the 1996 welfare-reform law had more to do with attempting to reduce the federal budget and give the states back the responsibility of the welfare system. Good quality reform may draw closer, and the individual states may be in the right position to produce programs that are created for their unique needs, but the fact remains; the welfare reform has not been correctly dealt with on the national level, so consequently, integrity of the program has yet been accomplished. Issues of poverty and welfare reform in the United States cannot be discussed without two main issues of the American life. The first issue is the existence of prejudice (stereotyping) in our society, and the second being the alteration of the American market and the loss of most manufacturing jobs that that have shut down most inner city communities; society must confront the consequences of both to build a solid foundation so that something can be built upon it that will be reliable in the future.
“Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the top House Republican on budget issues, calls the current welfare program “an unprecedented success.” Mitt Romney, who leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he would place similar restrictions on “all these federal programs.” One of his rivals, Rick Santorum, calls the welfare law a source of spiritual rejuvenation. “It didn’t just cut the rolls, but it saved lives,” Mr. Santorum said, giving the poor “something dependency doesn’t give: hope.” President Obama spoke favorably of the program in his 2008 campaign — promoting his role as a state legislator in cutting the Illinois welfare rolls. But he has said little about it as president. But the image of success formed early and stayed frozen in time. “The debate is over,” President Clinton said a year after signing the law, which he often cites in casting himself as a centrist. “Welfare reform works.” (DeParle, 2012) “As the downturn wreaked havoc on budgets, some states took new steps to keep the needy away. They shortened time limits, tightened eligibility rules and reduced benefits (to an average of about $350 a month for a family of three). Since 2007, 11 states have cut the rolls by 10 percent or more. They include centers of unemployment like Georgia, Indiana and Rhode Island, as well as Michigan, where the welfare director justified cuts by telling legislators, “We have a fair number of people gaming the system.” Arizona cut benefits by 20 percent and shortened time limits twice — to two years, from five.” By contrast, the federal government pays the entire food stamp bill no matter how many people enroll; states encourage applications, and the rolls have reached record highs.” (DeParle, 2012)
Utilizing an ethical standpoint to examining problems may possibly present an additional productive approach to the preparation, design, and release of welfare to work programs. A plain understanding of the ethical dilemmas may possibly guarantee that vital concerns are not ignored. This might aid providers to obtain their objectives of producing self-sufficient and self-directed applicants. If providers are to be successful, they must be conscientious and receptive to the applicant’s requirements and concerns.
A primary objective of welfare reform was to decrease the benefit reliance by assisting welfare applicants shift from welfare to work. Some states utilized the flexibility given to them to change their cash aid programs into programs directing and maintaining work. At the beginning of welfare reform, states have encouraged work by implementing policies that offer vital support to families that have one or more parents that work and enforce penalties on individuals who are not compliant with the work requirements. At this time, almost all states do not grant cash aid to any persons, as well as children, in families where the head of the household does not comply with regulations concerning work requirements.
“What this means in practice is that families' experiences with the TANF cash assistance system are almost entirely defined by work requirements and whether or not they are met. In a typical state, parents are immediately required to participate in work-related activities. In many states, applicants must complete an initial set of work-related requirements before their application for assistance can be approved. State exemption policies help to maintain the safety net aspect of TANF, as they are intended to provide recipients facing an immediate crisis, or facing significant medical or mental health issues, with basic assistance while they get those issues under control. Individuals who are exempt for participation usually are required to renew their exemption every three to six months. Permanent exemptions from work requirements are rarely granted, except for advanced age, usually for individuals over the age of 60 (of whom there are very few in the TANF program).” (Hahn, Kassabian, & Zedlewski, 2012)
Applicants who are hired for a job are encouraged to maintain their recipient status for cash aid at a reduced level for an extended period of time. The individual states use this as a cost effective method for applicants to meet work participation requirements. Applicants who are unable to secure employment can be put in a voluntary unpaid work experience position or be placed in a mandatory community service program. With a small number of exceptions, many states have reduced the use of community service and work experience due to the costs related to these programs.
“Welfare reform's reliance on deterrence and punishment to reduce the rolls tipped the financial and emotional balance of already vulnerable families. Since welfare reform, agencies found that more clients without work or benefits needed emergency aid. Requests for food pantry referrals rose at 70 percent of the agencies, for Medicaid/Health Insurance at 63 percent, for emergency cash at 58 percent, for shelter at 53 percent, for food stamps and regular cash benefits at 50 percent. Before welfare reform, workers could assume that government programs—however meagerly—met their clients' basic need for income, food, housing, and medical care benefits. The availability of these benefits reduced family crises and freed workers to address other issues. The new welfare environment left many social workers on "an ethical edge." The NASW Code of Ethics (2000) places the interests of clients first.” (Orfield, 1991, pp. 65, 517-530) On the opposite side, the welfare guidelines require social workers to enforce and ensure directives are completed without enough time or resources; thus making decisions and taking specific actions that may possibly damage already at risk applicants. “On July 12, the administration unilaterally weakened the federally mandated work requirements for welfare recipients. Since welfare reform was passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, the states have been required to have at least half of adult welfare recipients in qualified "work activities"—actual jobs, or participation in education or training programs. Now, however, Mr. Obama's Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the agency will issue waivers to the federal work requirement. This is a dramatic change in direction. As Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, flatly asserts, "This ends welfare reform as we know it." (Brooks, 2012)
Most of the methods used to employ welfare reform worked or semi-worked for about a decade but with the growing economy it was no longer able to keep up with the demands of the future. A serious update is required to go along with the growing economical times. Ethically one has to wonder if it is even possible to fix something that is clearly outdated or do we just start from scratch? If the intention is to decrease the deficit, this may be able to be accomplished by not jumping first to cut the programs that help the most at risk. The lowest 20 percent of the population is only getting approximately four percent of the entire revenue in the United States. To ask this particular class to contribute in a deficit reduction package that would require them to give more than four percent of the entire load is debatably unjust. However, odds are they will probably pay more than their share. “Deficit reduction is a worthy goal, but numerous tax subsidies and entitlement programs could be tapped before low-income programs were cut. As it is, safety-net programs are being restructured in ways that not only yield federal savings but also promise less state effort as well.” (Sawhill, 1995)

Bibliography

Brooks, A. (2012, August 6). Obama and 'Earning Your Success' . Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444860104577558701241637894.html?KEYWORDS=welfare+reform
DeParle, J. (2012, April 7). Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/us/welfare-limits-left-poor-adrift-as-recession-hit.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Hahn, H., Kassabian, D., & Zedlewski, S. (2012, March). TANf Work requirements and State. Retrieved from Urban Institute: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412563-TANF-Work-Requirements-and-State-Strategies-to-Fulfill-Them.pdf
Orfield, G. (1991). Cutback Policies, Declining Opportunities, and the Role of Social Service Providers. Chicago Journals, 65(4).
Sawhill, I. V. (1995, May 1). Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the Issues. Retrieved from Urban Institute: http://www.urban.org/publications/306620.html
Unknown. (2012, September 24). The Post-Clinton Democrats. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444032404578010542901722834.html…...

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