Labor force participation in our country has fallen to 63 percent. Millions of working-age Americans, particularly males between the ages of 25 and 54, are neither working nor seeking work. The laws, regulations, and administration of safety net, workforce, and related programs discourage work – especially when individuals and households benefit from more than a program. Yet as Pope Francis has noted, “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a pathway to growth, human development, and personal fulfillment. Helping the poor must always be a provisional solution in in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work.”
Our country’s safety net, workforce, and related programs are poorly coordinated, do an inadequate job of helping poor people, and often discourage employment and earnings and waste tax dollars. Federal, state, and local governments should work together to mend our intergovernmental safety net and build our workforce: reducing welfare dependency and increasing employment and earnings.
Safety net, workforce, and related programs include:
Though these programs are often helpful, it can be difficult and time-consuming for potential recipients to establish and maintain eligibility.
America’s intergovernmental safety net is poorly coordinated. It does an inadequate job of helping low-income people and often discourages employment and wastes tax dollars. The laws and regulations governing safety net and related programs produce high implicit tax rates in these programs – especially when individuals and households benefit from more than one program. Individually and in combination, many of these programs discourage recipients from seeking to join or rejoin the labor force. Federal and state regulatory reforms and administrative actions should be taken to remove impediments and increase work incentives in safety net, workforce, and related programs. In many cases, actions by Congress and state legislatures will be required.
This paper presents research findings on major disability programs and on the Earned Income Tax Credit program to illustrate what could be done to reform safety net, workforce, and related programs – and put more Americans back to work. We recommend five actions that federal, state, and local governments should take to reform and better manage America’s safety net, workforce, and related programs to reduce welfare dependency and increase employment and earnings. Some of the needed reforms could save tax dollars.
All content was extracted from the full report, "Mending Our Safety Net: Building Our Workforce" by Joe Wholey.