Why are thousands, maybe millions, of Americans participating in the welfare program? What happens when conditions are put on their ability to stay in the program?
The State of Maine discovered that thousands of people dropped out of the program when work and volunteer requirements were enforced last year by the administration of Republican Governor Paul LePage. David Sorensen, spokesman for the Department of Health and Services told The Associated Press that approximately 12,000 adults who were not disabled and did not have children were in the program before January 1, 2015; that number dropped to 2,680 in March.
What were the requirements that caused so many people to drop out of the program? Recipients are “required to work at least 20 hours a week, volunteer or participate in a work-training program” in order “to continue receiving benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after three months.” This requirement has been enforced in October 2014 since the administration decided to stop seeking a waiver for the federal requirement.
Mary Mahew, DHHS Commissioner, explained why the requirements are being enforced: to encourage people to find work. “If you’re on these programs, it means you are living in poverty and so the more that we can help incentive people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency the better off they’re going to be.”
There are at least eight states that declined the federal waiver last year with the possibility of one million people nationwide being removed from the program. It is possible that some of the people previously receiving food stamps found jobs and no longer need help. Whenever someone loses welfare benefits, they must wait three years to become eligible for benefits again.
Other states like Georgia and Florida are requiring welfare recipients to be tested for drug use. Florida’s law is currently being challenged in the court system, and Georgia’s law is on hold until the final ruling on Florida’s law. Work requirements may bring results where drug testing does not.
I appreciate the Welfare Service program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it has built a “heritage of economic self-sufficiency” for members. There are two main principles involved in this welfare program: love and work.
Elder L. Tom Perry explained, “The principle of love is the motivating power that moves us to give our time, our money, and services to this wonderful program….
“It is our understanding of the principle of love that encourages us to give generously to the fast offerings, a wonderful, revealed system in which on the first Sunday of each month, we voluntarily refrain from eating two meals and contribute the cost of those meals to our bishop. He then has the resources to help him help those in need. The system is mostly painless, and it raises our appreciation for those who are without and provides a means to satisfy their daily requirements.
“May the Lord continue to bless us with the desire to love one another and give generously based on the principle of the fast.
“The second basic principle is that of work. Work is just as important to the success of the Lord’s economic plan as the commandment to love our neighbor.
“In the Doctrine and Covenants we read: `Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of
“These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them’ (Doctrine and Covenants 68:31-32).
I have a special concern about the Lord’s reference to our children. We see evidence of many parents who overindulge their children without adding sufficient training about the value of work.
“In any community of Saints, we all work to serve each other in the best way we know how. Our work has a higher purpose because it is work to bless others and to build the kingdom of God” (“Building a Community of Saints,” Ensign, May 2001).
Elder Perry continued by explaining a third principle in the Lord’s welfare program is education. The scriptures teach us that whatever knowledge and intelligence we gain in this life will give us an advantage in the next world (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19). We are also taught to seek “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
I am totally supportive of having safety nets for those people who cannot work because of disability or illness. I believe the safety net should start with the family and the church before going to the government; however, when the government provides privacy and makes no requirements for its recipients, people are more likely to go there first.
We should remember the Lord’s welfare program requires love, work, and education. When we love others, we are happy to share our means with those in need; when we love others, we do not use or abuse their goodness to us. I am happy to help other people; I am especially willing to help others who are working to help themselves to the best of their abilities.
I work in a Church employment office. I see a big difference in the efforts between those people who are honestly looking for work and those who come to the office because their Bishop has sent them there. Those who are sincerely looking for work complete their on-line profiles; they apply for jobs; they hone their resumes; they come to the Career Workshops to learn and practice job hunting skills.
Bishops are happy to help the members of their wards, but they know welfare is not the way to success. They want their members to work for their daily needs or at least be looking for work or training to get a better job because they know that is the road to progress. Why does the Church encourage its members to work? Work is an eternal principle. Work brings success. Work makes us feel better about ourselves. Work takes people out of poverty where welfare keeps them there with their hands out for more welfare.