Trump administration reverses little-used welfare waivers

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FILE – In this Aug. 22, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump reacts before speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix. The Trump administration is preparing to restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday reversed an Obama-era policy that allowed states to seek waivers to welfare’s work requirements, saying it wants to promote employment and economic independence “as goals for every family.”

No waivers were granted by the previous administration.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Steven Wagner said the waiver option offered in 2012 by former President Barack Obama is being replaced “by an expectation that work should always be encouraged as a condition for receiving welfare.”

In the announcement, Office of Family Assistance Director Clarence Carter said, “We cannot achieve the goal of self-sufficiency if meaningful work participation is divorced from welfare cash assistance.”

In 2012, the Obama administration said it would be willing to grant states waivers to some of the requirements to the Clinton-era welfare reform law of 1996 — as long as governors could show they could accomplish the same welfare-to-work goals using different methods. Republicans skewered Obama, and Mitt Romney made it a campaign issue in his run for the White House.

Ohio was the only state that applied for a waiver, a state run by Republican Gov. John Kasich. The application was neither approved nor denied by the Obama administration. On Wednesday, the state was informed that its application from nearly two years ago was being denied.

The 1996 welfare reform law replaced a federal entitlement with grants to the states, placed a time limit on how long families can get aid and required recipients to eventually go to work.

About 1.1 million families currently receive welfare assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF.

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