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FreedomWorks is proud to announce that our bill of the month for December 2018 is the JOBS Act, S. 3692, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). The bill would reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program while instituting much-needed reforms and accountability measures, which will help lift vulnerable Americans out of poverty and into sustainable, well-paying jobs.
TANF is badly broken. The sweeping welfare reforms passed in 1996 by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich have been undermined over the last two decades. The work requirements that conservatives championed have been undermined by federal and state lawmakers so that they can be easily reduced to almost nothing using formula gimmicks. This departure from an outcome-based evaluation model allowed our system to fail so many needy Americans.
Fortunately, such an outcome-based framework is embodied in the JOBS Act. In measuring outcomes, the JOBS Act seeks to increase employment, retention, and advancement, as opposed to merely measuring short-term engagement. These metrics are far more conducive to long-term success and independence. The JOBS Act also encourages TANF case managers to set goals for recipients to better track their progress.
Proper accountability measures are put into place in the JOBS Act that help ensure compliance. Individuals who fail to meet the requirement will be penalized, provided they do not have good cause for doing so. States who fall short of their engagement requirements will also be sanctioned. This will end the disturbing trend of states refusing to engage their workforce and pocketing the money for their own means.
Another issue with our welfare system is that it is often targeted towards those who may not most need the assistance. The JOBS Act assuages this issue by ensuring that funds are only directed to families whose monthly income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This is a reasonable, common-sense means test that will save the federal government, and the American taxpayers, money.
In this same vein, the JOBS Act would require that at least one-quarter of funds be directed towards core activities. The aforementioned diversion of funds is becoming an issue for taxpayers, and this provision is just one of many that hold state lawmakers accountable. The bill also phases out third-party spending as something states can use to count towards this requirement.
With TANF authorization set to expire, now is the time to consider real, honest reforms that will ensure our welfare system is properly targeted, and as efficient as possible. We hope members of Congress in both chambers will consider the JOBS Act as the best path forward.