Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

More stringent standards on work requirements for welfare

Impose "more stringent standards on non-compliance with work requirements" for welfare.


Updates

Scott has failed to tighten work rules for welfare clients

Gov. Rick Scott believes in personal responsibility and wants Floridians to get a job. And that applies to folks on welfare, too.

During his 2010 campaign, Gov. Rick Scott promised to impose "more stringent standards on non-compliance with work requirements" for welfare recipients. But we found no evidence that he had taken any steps and gave him a promise Stalled in 2011 and 2012.

Near the end of this third year in office, we decided to check on his progress.

The work welfare requirements relate to those on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (commonly referred to as welfare) -- there are about 92,000 clients in Florida.

According to state law, TANF recipients face penalties starting at losing benefits for a matter of days.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families told PolitiFact that there were no new stringent standards on noncompliance with work requirements.

In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that states could apply for a waiver to implement pilot programs to meet the goals of welfare's work requirements, particularly to help parents find and keep jobs.

No state ended up applying for a waiver, and Scott spoke against them in 2012: "People need to be going out and looking for a job," said Scott. "We believe in personal responsibility, and we're going to have that in our state."

(The U.S. House of Representatives voted in March 2013 to block the waivers but the Senate never voted on that bill.)

We are separately tracking Scott's related promise to drug test welfare recipients. That promise stands at Stalled, because the state has been losing a challenge by opponents of the drug test law. While the case remains pending, there is a preliminary injunction in place so TANF recipients are not being drug tested for now.

Scott has failed to deliver on his promise to strengthen work requirements for welfare recipients. If Scott or the Legislature pursue this goal during the 2014 session we will revisit it, but for now we rate this Promise Broken.

Sources:

The Hill, "House votes 286-181 to block Obama's welfare-work waiver rule," March 13, 2013

Florida statues, Work requirements 445.024, Accessed Dec. 10, 2013

Interview, Baylor Johnson, ACLU of Florida spokesman, Nov. 25, 2013

Interview, Michelle Glady, Florida Department of Children and Families spokeswoman, Dec. 6, 2013

Interview, Kenneth Wolfe, spokesman U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dec. 6, 2013

Work rules for welfare became a hot topic during Presidential campaign

During his 2010 campaign, Gov. Rick Scott promised to impose "more stringent standards on non-compliance with work requirements” for welfare recipients.

In 2011, we rated Scott's promise Stalled after we found no evidence that he had taken steps toward this goal. (You can read more about the work rules for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, known as welfare, in our 2011 update below.) As of October 2012, there were about 93,000 people in the program in Florida.

When we checked back with state and federal sources in November 2012, we again found no steps Scott had taken on this work and welfare promise. But work rules for welfare recipients  turned into a key Republican talking point during the 2012 campaign -- and Scott weighed in on that topic.

In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that states could apply for a waiver to implement pilot programs to meet the goals of welfare's work requirements, particularly to help parents find and keep jobs.

An ad from the Mitt Romney campaign seized on this to attack Obama. "President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements,” the ad said. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work' goes back to being plain old welfare." PolitiFact ruled that ad Pants on Fire and one of the biggest falsehoods of the presidential campaign.

A memo from George Sheldon, the acting assistant secretary at HHS and a former head of Florida's Department of Children and Families, notified states in July "of the Secretary's willingness to exercise her waiver authority ... to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."

In July, Scott spoke against the waivers: "People need to be going out and looking for a job,” said Scott. "We believe in personal responsibility, and we're going to have that in our state.”

No state applied for a waiver as of late November, said Kenneth Wolfe, spokesman at the federal Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The penalties for non-compliance with work rules start at losing benefits for 10 days in Florida. Some work sanctions are imposed only until the individual complies, so the sanction can be short.  However, Florida does not impose permanent penalties for work noncompliance, according to DCF.

Scott took office in January 2010. Data on the number of welfare recipients who had work sanctions in Florida shows that the numbers were higher in the  two years before Scott took office compared to the nearly two years he has served as governor.
 

Year Number of people sanctioned for work rules
2009 2,949
2010 3,113
2011 2,361
2012 through October 1,992

Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told PolitiFact in an email that Scott still stands by his promise, but isn't proposing anything specific for the upcoming 2013 state Legislative session. This promise remains Stalled.

Sources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Guidance concerning waiver and expenditure authority under Section 1115, July 12, 2012

PolitiFact, "Mitt Romney says Barack Obama"s plan for welfare reform: ‘They just send you a check,"”Aug. 7, 2012

MittRomney.com, "Right Choice," Aug. 6, 2012

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,Information Memorandum, July 12, 2012

Huffington Post, "Rick Scott, Terry Branstad condemn welfare law waivers backed by Obama administration,”July 15, 2012

Florida statues, Work requirements 445.024, Accessed Nov. 30, 2012

Interview, Jackie Schutz, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, Nov. 21, 2012

Interview, Erin Gillespie, spokeswoman for Florida Department of Children and Families, Nov. 29, 2012

Scott's promise to tighten rules on welfare and work would require a bill

Gov. Rick Scott's promise to enact drug testing for welfare recipients received much attention in his first year in office. PolitiFact Florida's Scott-O-Meter, which tracks Scott's progress on his campaign promises, gave him a Promise Kept after the state Legislature passed a bill in 2011 that required Floridians who receive cash assistance to pass a drug test.

But during his 2010 campaign, Scott combined that promise with a related one about welfare, which has received much less attention. On his campaign website Scott wrote: "Imposing more stringent standards on non-compliance with work requirements and require drug screening for recipients, Florida could save $77 million." His website did not provide additional details about the work requirement component.

Welfare is a generic term for a federal-state program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. The program is designed to short-term provide cash assistance for impoverished families. As of August 2011, there were about 92,000 TANF clients in Florida and the average monthly benefit per family was about $240.

This report from the Florida Department of Children and Families explains the work requirements for TANF recipients. Federal law requires that each state receiving a TANF Block Grant, including Florida, must meet specific work participation rates -- 50 percent for all families receiving assistance and 90 percent for two-parent families receiving assistance, the report states. The work requirements vary depending on the recipient. For example, a teenage head of household can meet the work requirement by attending school, while a household with two parents eligible to work who receive federally subsidized child care are expected to work 55 hours a week combined. Florida has met its work participation rate in recent years, according to the report. (Work requirements are also explained in this state statute.) The penalties for non-compliance start at losing benefits for 10 days and can ultimately escalate to losing benefits altogether.

For some basic information about work requirements and non-compliance we contacted Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesperson at the federal Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The state determines how many hours an individual must participate in a particular work-related activity and determines when there is a valid reason for missing work activity hours, Wolfe told us in an e-mail. If welfare clients refuse to meet work requirements, the state can cut back on their benefits and ultimately cut them off. The state can't penalize a family in certain circumstances if they lack child care.

We searched Nexis for news articles and couldn't find any steps that Scott took to impose more stringent standards in Florida on non-compliance with work requirements. We asked Scott spokesman Lane Wright for an update repeatedly between Aug. 16 and Aug. 22 and never received an answer. 

Sen. Nan Rich, the Democratic leader whose district includes part of western Broward County, said she wasn't aware of any changes at the state level to the requirements or penalties related to welfare recipients and work. But any such changes would require legislative approval said Rich, vice chair of the health and human services appropriations committee and a member of a committee that deals with legislation about children and families.

The Florida Department of Children and Families imposes financial penalties for non-compliance. Department spokesman Joe Follick said he was not aware of any planned changes at the state level.

We'll be on watch for any proposed legislation related to work requirements for TANF recipients during the 2012 session and how Scott responds. But for now we rate this Promise Stalled.

Sources:

Rick Scott campaign website, 7-7-7 plan, 2010

PolitiFact, "Scott gets the wish on drug-testing welfare recipients," May 6, 2011

Interview, Department of Children and Families spokesman Joe Follick, Aug. 22, 2011, "Scott gets his wish on testing welfare recipients," May 6, 2011

Florida Department of Children and Families, "Summary Report on Engagement in Additional work activities," March 2011

Florida Department of Children and Families, "Public assistance caseload report," August 2011

Florida statutes, Non-compliance with work requirements 414.065, Accessed Aug. 22, 2011

Florida statues, Work requirements 445.024, Accessed Aug. 22, 2011

Interview, Kenneth Wolfe, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families spokesman, Aug. 17, 2011

Interview, State Sen. Nan Rich, Aug. 22, 2011