Welfare Expert Testifies on Poor Outlook of Pennsylvania's Welfare System before House Republican Policy Committee
3/20/2007
The dismal state of welfare in Pennsylvania and ways in which to improve the system were the topics of yesterday’s House Republican Policy Committee hearing in Harrisburg. 
 
The committee, chaired by Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), heard testimony from Robert Rector, senior research fellow on welfare and family issues at the Heritage Foundation based in Washington, D.C. Rector has an extensive background in welfare policy. He played a major role in the creation of the federal welfare reform legislation in 1996 and has conducted extensive research on the economic costs of welfare and its role in undermining families. 
 
Reps. Rob Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin), Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery) and Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) co-chaired the hearing.
 
“Pennsylvania’s welfare system is completely unacceptable,” Turzai said. “Currently we have a system that keeps people trapped in poverty. Over the past four years, more than 360,000 people have been added to Pennsylvania’s welfare rolls.
 
“Mr. Rector’s testimony provided insight into how we can improve and fix the problems in our current system. The bottom line is that the government is not here to hold people down in poverty. Welfare should be a hand up, not a way of life. We want to reduce caseloads by having welfare be a path to work and a better life. We want to help break people from the cycle of dependency,” he continued.
 
Rector recommended looking at the national welfare system, as well as those implemented in Wisconsin and New York City, for examples of how Pennsylvania’s welfare system can be improved.
 
“Pennsylvania seems to be doing quite poorly when compared to other states’ welfare systems,” Rector said. “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseloads are rising,
a unique occurrence when compared to other states, where caseloads there have been decreasing over the past four years. 
 
“Part of Pennsylvania’s problem is you have a hard time sanctioning those who don’t meet the work requirements. When you have weak sanctions, it basically becomes a voluntary system. You want to look at what an individual can do, not a multitude of excuses.”  
 
Rector listed five reforms that would help decrease both the welfare caseloads and the state poverty population:
 
  • Make the program obligatory not voluntary.
  • Look for what individuals can do to participate in the work force. Don’t let them sit for months and develop idleness.
  • Separate the people who genuinely need aid from the people who are abusing the system.
  • Establish obligations and requirements to be continuous, model programs to have expectations similar to a real job as much as possible.
  • Sanction those who refuse to meet the work requirements.
 
Rector said that if these five steps are implemented, caseloads in Pennsylvania should drop significantly. 
 
“Welfare should not be a one-way hand out. It needs to be a reciprocal obligation,” Rector said. “There need to be conditions for receiving aid and rejoining the labor force, with the ultimate goal of becoming self sufficient. It is not meant to be a program that supports people in idleness through one-way cash handouts.”
 
Monday’s hearing was one of a series in which the House Republican Policy Committee is examining the current state of welfare – the state’s largest budget expenditure – in efforts to reduce rolls and costs.
 
Rep. Mike Turzai
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(412) 369-2230
Contact: Tricia Graham
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 260-6296
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2007