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If you listen to the left, you’d think welfare work requirements were some kind of diabolical scheme that conservatives thrust on the needy. “Cruel! Unfair! Mean!” the left cries on and on ad nauseum. But to paraphrase Ben Shapiro, facts don’t care what the left feels. And when it comes to welfare work requirements, the facts clearly show one thing: they work.
Arkansas shows us how.
A new study from the Foundation for Government Accountability investigates the effects of welfare work requirements in Arkansas following the state’s 2016 decision to enforce federal rules requiring able-bodied, childless adults to work, train, or volunteer for 20 hours a week.
Because the state also became the first in the nation to track every single individual (over 25,000) who cycled off of welfare due to work requirements, researchers had an unparalleled ability to gauge the impact of welfare reforms on those affected.
The results paint a starkly different picture than what liberals would have you believe; rather than doom and gloom, welfare work requirements were found to help to triple the incomes of former beneficiaries, on average, while also cutting wasteful government spending. These requirements are helping to usher in a new era of hope for once-needy Arkansans and efficiency in state government.
According to the study, within three months of the work requirements’ implementation, the number of able-bodied, childless adults on welfare rolls fell by 8,000 (a 43% decline), and by the end of 12 months, less than 6,000 able-bodied, childless adults were enrolled (a 70% decline). This means that there were more resources available for the truly needy, especially single mothers, seniors, and the disabled.
Liberals might say that these numbers are unfair, and that former welfare enrollees have been left out in the cold by the state. This is patently false. In the first three months, incomes of former beneficiaries skyrocketed 87%, and jumped a staggering 204% within the first two years, on average. These gains more than outweighed lost benefits – in fact, former beneficiaries independently made $2 for every lost welfare dollar after two years.
So rather than abandoning former beneficiaries, welfare work requirements are the catalyst to unleashing their untapped potential.
These changes also brought significant financial benefits to the state overall.
At the start of 2016, before welfare work requirements went into effect, Arkansas taxpayers were spending $3.4 million a month on food stamps for able-bodied, childless adults. By the end of 2016, that number fell to $1 million a month, which amounts to $28 million in savings annually.
These savings bolstered the coffers of the state budget significantly. State income tax collections for former enrollees rose by $1.7 million in the first year, which amounts to a staggering 454% increase. After two years, income tax collections from former enrollees increased by $2.3 million.
Savings like these aren’t just numbers on a page. They mean more money for schools, roads, or the truly needy such as single mothers and the elderly. Or they could even mean a tax cut for working Arkansans’ so they can keep more of their hard-earned money. Whatever application of the funds state lawmakers choose, the savings themselves stand to benefit everyone.
This study of welfare work requirements in the Natural State proves what conservatives have known for years. Welfare dependency is one of the cruelest machinations of big government. It leaves its subjects trapped in a mire of wasted potential, with taxpayers footing the bill. Connecting the needy to meaningful work is the surest way to make government more efficient, and promote self-sufficiency and prosperity for all.
Katlyn Batts is the Chairwoman of the Wingate University College Republicans and an employee of the Jesse Helms Center.