The HOPE Act restores the 1990s welfare-to-work reforms that “ended welfare as we know it,” to use Bill Clinton’s phrase. These policies were gutted by the Obama administration as a backdoor way to expand welfare and to expand Obamacare.
In passing HB 1090, Mississippi has again become a leader in welfare reform, just as we led the way nationally with Gov. Kirk Fordice’s “Work First” reforms. According to an independent review of the law, it moves “Mississippi to the forefront of states in overall benefits integrity and the move from reliance on benefit programs to employment.”
Here are 10 reforms the HOPE Act accomplishes:
It gets people back to work … By requiring childless, able-bodied adults to get back to work or obtain training or attend school to keep receiving SNAP (food stamps).
It removes millionaires from food stamps … by restoring federal income and asset tests. (These are the welfare-to-work reforms from the 1990s.)
It tracks out-of-state welfare spending … to stop welfare fraud and abuse (think: ATMs in the Walt Disney World area).
It verifies immigration status … to remove illegal aliens using stolen social security numbers to illegally access welfare (under federal law, illegal aliens are ineligible for welfare, but no one’s been checking).
It verifies residency … to make sure people in other states are not fraudulently taking advantage of Mississippi welfare programs.
It helps state employees … by giving them real-time data they can use to verify eligibility, eliminating duplicative and inefficient procedures.
It saves Mississippi – and federal – taxpayers millions a year … by removing fraudsters and identity thieves from our welfare rolls as soon as we discover their presence.
It makes sure welfare benefits are properly used … by banning EBT card usage at ATMs in liquor stores, strip clubs, casinos, theme parks and other questionable locations.
It requires state agencies to work together and to share eligibility data … so that people can’t conceal vital information that would illegally increase benefits.
It saves state money by drawing down federal funding … to help pay for cutting-edge fraud prevention measures – while also saving federal funding otherwise wasted on fraudulent Medicaid and welfare enrollment.
As a bonus, the HOPE Act accomplishes all this by preserving existing benefits for those who are truly eligible, preserving the long-term integrity of our Medicaid and welfare programs.
Mike Dawkins is the chairman of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.