(CNN Money) — President Donald Trump is now setting his sights on overhauling the nation’s safety net programs.
Trump signed an executive order Monday directing federal agencies to promote employment for those on public assistance.
The president called for enforcing work requirements that are already in the law and reviewing all waivers and exemptions to such mandates. Also, the executive order asked agencies to consider adding work requirements to government aid programs that lack them.
“The federal government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty,” the order read.
The agencies have 90 days to submit a list of recommended policy and regulatory changes.
The move is the latest step in the administration’s effort to require low-income Americans to work for their federal benefits. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services earlier this year began allowing states to mandate that certain Medicaid enrollees must work for the first time in the program’s history. The Department of Agriculture also wants to strengthen the work requirements in the food stamp program, while the Department of Housing and Urban Development is looking into the issue for those in subsidized housing.
Several states, particularly those with Republican leaders, have also been adding work mandates. Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas have already received approval to require certain Medicaid recipients to participate in community engagement programs, including work, volunteering or job training, while several other states have applications pending before CMS. West Virginia and Wisconsin recently tightened the work requirement provisions in their food stamp programs.
The president is ramping up these efforts after Congress opted to punt on entitlement reform with the midterm elections looming in the fall.
The order outlines nine “Principles of Economic Mobility,” which are in line with longstanding Republican ideals. They include improving employment outcomes and economic independence, promoting marriage as a way of escaping poverty, reserving benefits for those truly in need and empowering the private sector to find solutions to poverty. The order directs agencies to provide more flexibility to the states, which administer many of these safety net programs.
The administration, along with conservative policy experts, argue that this is the perfect time to enforce and expand work requirements because unemployment is near record lows and employers are looking to hire. They are setting their sights on the able-bodied, working-age adults — particularly childless men — who have joined the assistance programs in recent years.
— Tami Luhby
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