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Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democratic candidate for Congress, speaks to supporters during the 26th Annual Wendell Ford Dinner, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democratic candidate for Congress, speaks to supporters during the 26th Annual Wendell Ford Dinner, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democratic candidate for Congress, speaks to supporters during the 26th Annual Wendell Ford Dinner, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

By Katie Akin September 7, 2018

New attack ad twists McGrath stance on welfare work requirements

Hannah Thornton, a single mom, sits in her kitchen and praises the GOP tax plan in a new ad running in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

As the screen cuts to a sepia-toned image of the U.S. Capitol building, Hannah says, "I don’t understand why Amy McGrath ... wants to fund more welfare for people who can work, but don’t."

Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, is the Democratic candidate running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in what is expected to be a November toss-up race. The two have sparred on the role that welfare, and specifically Medicaid, should play in Kentucky.

The sponsor of the ad is the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican PAC closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

We wanted to know whether McGrath has called for "more welfare" for people who can work, but don't.

The Congressional Leadership Fund pointed us toward two instances in which, they say, McGrath supported welfare for those who are able to work but don’t: her stances on a Kentucky Medicaid waiver, and the 2018 farm bill.

Key takeaways
  • McGrath opposes work requirements for Medicaid and SNAP recipients.
  • Right now, neither program requires recipients to work to get benefits.
  • McGrath has no plans to extend welfare to more people; she has only advocated for maintaining the status quo.
The Kentucky HEALTH conundrum

In January 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a proposal from Kentucky leaders through the federal Medicaid waiver application process, in which states can submit proposals to use federal Medicaid funds in nontraditional ways. Under Gov. Matt Bevin's plan, called Kentucky HEALTH, adult Medicaid recipients would be required to work or volunteer to receive benefits, if they are able.

In July, a federal judge blocked the measure, saying the proposal didn’t fully consider federal requirements for access to health care. But the idea behind it remains a talking point in the state’s politics.

Barr has said that states should be able to set their own policies for health care, and supported the concept of work requirements for benefits, saying it could help recipients "achieve self-sufficiency."

McGrath is against work requirements. "I value encouraging people to work, if they are able, but I fail to see why we are linking that to having health care," she said to Lex18, a local NBC affiliate. "We can't punish those who need assistance as a cruel way to cut the state budget."

Currently, Kentucky’s Medicaid program does not have job requirements.

McGrath’s opposition to Kentucky HEALTH does not necessarily mean she wants to expand Medicaid to cover more people, or to make easier for those without jobs to receive insurance, as the ad claims.

Instead, she supports the status quo: providing Medicaid to low-income Kentuckians, even those without jobs.

Farm tax, food stamps

The Congressional Leadership Fund also pointed us to the 2018 farm bill, which included new regulations for food stamps, known as SNAP. Under the initial draft of the bill, SNAP recipients would be required to work or do job training at least 20 hours per week.

The farm bill has not yet become law. The version with work requirements was passed by the House in June 2018. The Senate passed their version just a week later, but they removed the controversial work requirements.

McGrath, who by this point had retired from teaching at the Naval Academy to campaign full-time, tweeted a critique of the work requirements, saying they "would take away SNAP assistance to thousands of veterans and active duty military families who rely on these benefits."

Andrew S. London, professor of sociology at Syracuse University, studies the relationship between SNAP benefits and the military. He said there is support for McGrath’s notion that a work requirement might lead to reduced benefits going to a subpopulation of veterans.

"Our research suggests that SNAP use among veterans and reserve/guard who are either unemployed or not in the labor force is substantial," he said.

Much like the Medicaid debate, McGrath isn’t pushing for more welfare for unemployed Americans. Instead, she wants to keep eligibility requirements as they currently are, allowing many people — including unemployed veterans — to keep their benefits.

Our ruling

An ad by the Congressional Leadership Fund says that McGrath "wants to fund more welfare for people who can work, but don’t."

This is exaggerated, and it hinges on the use of "more" to create a deceptive picture about her position.

McGrath spoke out against the Kentucky HEALTH plan, which would have required Medicaid recipients to work or do community service in order to receive benefits. She also objected to the House version of the 2018 farm bill, which would have imposed stricter work requirements on SNAP recipients.

However, in both instances, McGrath hasn’t called for more welfare. Rather, she opposes imposing work requirements and disqualifying some current recipients. McGrath has said she wants to keep the status quo on welfare, not to increase it or make it easier for people not to work.

The statement is partially accurate. We rate it Half True.

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Half True
Says Amy McGrath "wants to fund more welfare for people who can work, but don’t."
In a television ad
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Our Sources

Congressional Leadership Fund, "(KY-06) Hannah," Aug. 8, 2018

Congressional Leadership Fund, "CLF releases new ads highlighting Amy McGrath’s extreme, liberal agenda," Aug. 8, 2018

Lex18, "Barr and McGrath spar over medicaid work requirements, benefits cuts," Jul. 03, 2018

Email interview with Mark Nickolas, press contact for McGrath campaign.

Amy McGrath, "Ending Either/or: Amy McGrath’s plan to move the central Kentucky economy forward," 2018

NPR, "Federal judge blocks medicaid work requirements in Kentucky," Jun. 29, 2018

Northern Kentucky Tribune, "Kentucky HEALTH delayed by federal judge, halts plan to require Medicaid recipients to work," Jun. 29, 2018

Kentucky HEALTH, "FAQ," 2017

Farm Policy News Illinois, "Farm bill passes the Senate," Jun. 29, 2018

Politico, "Senate passes farm bill, setting up food stamp battle with the House," Jun. 28, 2018

Amy McGrath, tweet, Jan. 10, 2018

AP, "Medicaid becomes latest sparring issue in congressional race," Jul. 3, 2018

NPR, "House passes farm bill with controversial work requirements," Jun. 21, 2018

Andrew London, "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Use Among Active-Duty Military Personnel, Veterans, and Reservists," Aug 7, 2015

Amy McGrath, tweet, Jun. 21, 2018

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "House Farm Bill’s SNAP Cuts, Work Requirements Would Hurt Veterans," Jul. 6, 2018

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Taking Medicaid Coverage Away From People Not Meeting Work Requirements Will Reduce Low-Income Families’ Access to Care and Worsen Health Outcomes," Aug. 13, 2018

Marketplace, "Military families turn to food stamps," May 25, 2015

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Five key questions and answers about Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waivers," Jun. 2011

Email interview with Mark Nickolas, spokesperson for the McGrath campaign, Aug. 28, 2018

Interview with Courtney Alexander, spokesperson for the Congressional Leadership Fund, Aug. 28, 2018

Interview with Eric Schnurer, campaign policy consultant for the McGrath campaign, Aug. 28, 2018

Interview with Judy Solomon, a health policy expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Aug. 30, 2018

Interview with Andrew London, professor of sociology at Syracuse University, Aug. 31, 2018

Interview with Teresa Waters, professor of health management and policy, Aug. 30, 2018

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New attack ad twists McGrath stance on welfare work requirements

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