DENVER – Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney took aim at President Obama’s controversial decision to drop landmark bi-partisan Clinton-era work requirements for welfare recipients in a new ad yesterday.
In Colorado, as in the rest of the country, the number of people taking advantage of taxpayer funded welfare programs has risen steadily as unemployment increases and unemployment insurance expires for thousands of the unemployed each month.
It’s a trend that has worried fiscal conservatives, who have long argued that steep increases in entitlement spending are unsustainable.
In 2000, for example, the federal government spent around $17 billion providing Food Stamps to some 17 million people. By earlier this year, however, the number of people on the dole had tripled to nearly 50 million – or one in every seven Americans – and the annual cost of the program has exploded to almost $80 billion, some five times above 2000 spending levels.
Proponents of fiscal reform have criticized the Obama Administration for making it easier to qualify for food stamps, substantially increasing monthly benefits for recipients, and for a controversial, multi-million dollar government ad campaign encouraging even more Americans to sign up for welfare benefits.
That criticism intensified last month, when the director of the Office of Family Assistance circulated a memo to states administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program regarding work waivers and expenditure authority.
The new Romney ad, embedded below, is the latest salvo in the debate over entitlement reform.
Following the release of the administration memo, the Associated Press headline, “Obama Administration Opens The Door For States To Seek Major Changes In Welfare-To-Work Law” summed up the fears many lawmakers had hailed as a great bi-partisan achievement.
Currently in Colorado, for example, several activities such as community service and substance abuse treatment constitute work activities. While the Federal government will be more lenient in granting waivers, it is unclear how Colorado will respond.
Colorado Works, the department which administers TANF, declined numerous requests for comment.
Additionally, the unemployment rate increased to 8.3 percent in July, underscoring the effects of a weakening national economy and a national job market that has remained stagnant for more than 40 months.
As the unemployment rate in Colorado continues grow, job seekers whose unemployment insurance is expiring will have a difficult time finding work.
Along with the increase in unemployment, a recent Associated Press survey found that economic experts predicted the national poverty rate could increase from 15.1 percent to 15.7 percent, the highest level in over 50 years.
As the economy continues to sputter and welfare work requirements are relaxed, Colorado and other states will likely continue to see an increase in welfare applications, placing even greater pressure on entitlement spending, which now constitutes some two thirds of overall federal spending.