Huffpost Politics

Gary Herbert: Welfare Participation Requirements Not Always Effective

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WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's presidential campaign released letters Friday from nine Republican governors supporting work requirements for welfare recipients.

All but one of the letters, dated earlier this week and addressed to Kathleen Sebelius, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, criticize the Obama administration for its July announcement that it would consider waiving some welfare rules for states that want to run pilot projects to boost employment among welfare recipients. The Romney campaign has previously claimed that the Obama administration already dropped work requirements for welfare, but that claim has repeatedly been proven wrong.

But one governor, Utah's Gary Herbert, did not criticize the HHS waiver decision. Utah was one of several states to seek welfare leeway in the first place. The 1996 welfare reform law eliminated welfare as a federal entitlement, introduced time limits and required states to maintain a certain percentage of recipients in work or work-related activities like school or training.

"Some of these participation requirements are difficult and costly to verify, while other participation requirements do not lead to meaningful employment outcomes and are overly prescriptive," Herbert wrote, explaining the state's rationale for seeking flexibility.

"Utah would only support waiver authority where work and self-sufficiency were the basis for the program waiver," he continued, adding that Utah had not assumed HHS had the authority to issue such a waiver -- a matter of debate between the administration and its critics. "Our support of the HHS change is contingent on HHS having statutory authority to grant waivers -- whether that authority is in the statute as currently written or whether it is granted as part of a [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] reauthorization."

The administration has said it would only consider waivers that meet Herbert's criteria for work and self-sufficiency. Specifically, Sebelius has said HHS would consider only projects increasing employment among welfare recipients by 20 percent.

The rest of the governors' letters echoed the Romney campaign.

"By eliminating the work requirements, you are creating a dangerous policy precedent and deterring Americans from becoming more self-sufficient," wrote Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

"Government officials should be encouraging people to go to work, not retreat from it," wrote Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The letters are the latest sign Romney will continue his welfare attacks no matter what fact checkers say.

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