Two members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation criticized a move by the Trump administration to review federal social welfare programs last week.
Trump put such programs under greater scrutiny on April 10, with an executive order on “economic mobility” instructing federal agencies to review the way they administer aid. The order sets out nine principles that will direct federal agencies’ efforts. The principles emphasize, among other things, restoring economic independence, promoting marriage and family, providing flexibility to states, using government funds more efficiently, reserving benefits only for those “truly in need,” consolidating redundant programs and empowering the private sector to fight poverty.
“This misguided, malevolent Executive Order is yet another glaring example of the Trump Administration’s war on poor and low-income American families,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a press release on April 11. “Proven social safety net programs have been able to elevate millions of Americans out of poverty by providing critical access to basic needs like child care, food assistance and affordable housing, among other supports and services.”
The executive action orders federal agencies responsible for public aid programs to review existing regulations in light of the principles and move to change their procedures in accordance with them. The document claims that there are record-high welfare enrollment for able-bodied adults and that “adding or enforcing work requirements for able-bodied adults on welfare is an effective solution to help millions of Americans regain their independence.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., likewise criticized the move by the administration in a press release on April 10.
“Under the guise of ‘reviewing welfare programs,’ the Trump Administration is once again targeting America’s most vulnerable people,” she said. “Despite the rhetoric from President Trump and Congressional Republicans saying that they want to tackle poverty, the truth is that imposing additional requirements on our social safety net programs only serves to cut off lifelines that help millions of people from going hungry, get access to affordable housing and receive medical care.”
The order follows a January 2018 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which laid out an optional scheme under which the centers would support states interested in making “participation in work or other community engagement” a prerequisite for receiving Medicaid coverage for working-age, able adults.
Of the 800,000 Medicaid recipients in Connecticut, nearly 72 percent were either juveniles, pregnant women, disabled, seniors or employed — and hence would not be affected by a new work requirement, according to a report that the state Department of Social Services recently presented to the Human Services subcommittee of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.
“While some states are choosing to pursue [work or community engagement requirements] Connecticut is not, as we do not believe it is consistent with the purpose or principles of Medicaid,” the report said.
In an email to the News, Jeffrey Weiss, chairman of the New Haven Republican Town Committee, said that while social welfare programs are important for society, the committee believes people should support themselves.
“Low unemployment is a sign of a strong economy,” Weiss said. “Welfare and other similar programs are a necessary safety net, but we support any measures that will encourage and assist individuals back into the workforce.”
Stephen Karp, the executive director for the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said that that while he doubts Connecticut, if afforded the choice, would ever institute such changes, it would be difficult to forecast the impact direct changes to federal policy and funding could have on the state.
The federal government pays about 59 percent of the cost of Connecticut’s Medicaid Program.
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