DFL challenged to restore integrity to welfare system

A young mother finds herself in financial disaster and turns to the taxpayer for help through the welfare system. But she is determined to become self-sufficient so she works and completes post-secondary education. She becomes successfully employed and independent of any taxpayer-funded public assistance program.

The system works like we all want it to. The taxpayer can feel good about the investment and the young mother and her family can celebrate the dignity of work and self-sufficiency.

Welfare reform on both the federal and state levels, as passed on a bipartisan basis several years ago, intended to make the system work as intended. The reforms focused on program integrity, work, and time limits for able-bodied recipients. Around the nation, welfare numbers declined and we celebrated success.

A Minnesota Legislature bipartisan task force formed some 10 years ago produced recommendations to complement the federal reforms. These were passed and enacted into law. Subsequent additional reforms were passed in succeeding years.

Unfortunately, measures to include residency requirements were struck down by the courts. The DFL-controlled Legislature now seems intent on restoring and growing the entitlement welfare state.


When Republicans controlled the Minnesota House, a number of important fraud prevention and cost containment measures were passed. During the past two years, many of these measures have been repealed and other entitlement-growth legislation has been passed by the DFL-controlled Legislature.

Health and Human Services expenditures are growing at an unsustainable pace, choking off monies for other important priorities.

• The 2007 Health and Human Services budget passed by the DFL increased welfare spending over the next four years by $131 million.

• The 60-month time limit was expanded for more recipients who do not work.

• Sanctions for noncompliance were reduced — an invitation to abuse.

• The work requirement for college students on welfare was removed. Is this fair to non-welfare students who work many hours to help pay for their education?

• Work requirements for cash grants for refugees who arrive in Minnesota in the past 12 months were removed.

• Social Security benefits were totally exempted in establishing welfare payments. Might we call this "double dipping?"


• Asset limit exclusion for an automobile was increased from $7,500 to $15,000. How can someone on welfare afford a $15,000 car?

• A new state taxpayer-funded Family Stabilization Program was funded to allow 60-month, timed-out participants to receive cash benefits indefinitely. Where is the accountability?

• Sanctions can be imposed only if a non-compliant recipient’s ability is confirmed by a behavioral health or medical professional. This looks like a huge loophole.

• A state taxpayer-funded program was established to allow participants to receive cash assistance for non-compliance of work requirements. Non-citizens in the U.S. for 12 months or less are automatically eligible for this benefit. Work was supposed to be a major component of successful welfare reform.

• A work participation bonus of $75 per month for 24 consecutive months is funded.

• Work requirements are reduced. For example, a single caregiver with a child under 6 years is only required to work 22 hours per week. How is this fair to a full-time (40 hours per week) working single mom not on welfare?

Public confidence in our welfare system is eroded every time an abuse is encountered in our neighborhoods. The partnership only works when the welfare system is diligent in assuring eligibility integrity and recipients do their part to work their way off dependence.

Creating work requirement and time limit loopholes and other unjustified entitlements hurts both the taxpayer and the welfare recipients. No one wins when the system does more to encourage multi-generational dependence and broken families than the dignity of work, personal responsibility and independence.


Let’s hope the Minnesota DFL legislative leadership wakes up to these realities and restores and rebuilds a welfare system with integrity and accountability.

Fran Bradley is a former Republican lawmaker from Rochester. His column appears monthly.

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