The Commonwealth Foundation’s persistent advocacy on welfare and criminal justice reform motivated Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass several bills to put citizens on a pathway to independence.
Despite decades-low unemployment and hundreds of thousands of job openings and training opportunities, almost 500,000 able-bodied Pennsylvanians on Medicaid report no income. CF’s research, in partnership with the Foundation for Government Accountability, motivated lawmakers to focus on incentivizing those on the sidelines to find family-sustaining, meaningful work.
In the final days of session, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly passed a transformative welfare reform bill (HB2138) that would implement work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults on Medicaid. The measure is supported by two-thirds of likely voters, according to a CF-commissioned poll.
Though similar work requirements have lifted tens of thousands of citizens out of poverty in other states, Governor Tom Wolf — named the most liberal in America by InsideGov magazine — vetoed the measure.
Fortunately, Governor Wolf did sign three other CF-backed bills into law that will help protect welfare resources and reduce barriers to work:
· HB 163 improves work opportunities for ex-offenders by ending the suspension of a driver’s license for people convicted of many non-violent, non-driving offenses;
· SB 1127 increases penalties for food stamp trafficking; and
· SB 6 reduces welfare fraud and abuse, protecting Pennsylvania’s welfare programs for the truly needy.
Poverty and crime are closely linked. Increasing the penalties for welfare fraud and reducing obstacles to employment after prison ensures both systems promote opportunity and reward hard work.
In response to CF’s groundbreaking research and continued advocacy of the issue, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly has passed welfare work requirements legislation two years in a row. Minnesota is the only other state to put this legislation on a Democratic governor’s desk.
CF knows work is the best long-term solution to poverty. The Commonwealth Foundation will continue fighting to transform our welfare system to promote work and a pathway to independence. Pennsylvania’s future depends on it.