Work Requirements in Safety Net Programs

Urban Institute
April 2018
by Heather Hahn

People enrolled in public assistance programs,such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Temporary Assistancefor Needy Families (TANF, orcash assistance), say they want to find stable jobs that support their families.Most people agreethat everyone should work if they can.So what’s wrong with requiring people to work in exchange for receiving public assistance? Despite the logic supporting work requirements in public assistance programs, the evidence shows work requirements fail to achieve their goal for two primary reasons:

  • Work requirements don’t necessarily help people find jobs, and certainly not jobs that lift people out of poverty.
  • Thered tape associated with work requirements can cause people to lose access to vital supports even when they are working or should be exemptfrom the requirements.

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