Trump’s Welfare Hopes Face an Uncertain Future

March 16, 2018

In his State of the Union speech two months ago, President Trump vowed to end welfare as he defined it, heralding a plan to force recipients off federal housing vouchers, food assistance and Medicaid if they were not willing to do “a hard day’s work.”

Days before the speech, as part of the plan, several federal departments took steps to impose the stricter work requirements on able-bodied adults receiving noncash aid. The move could result in the loss of subsistence benefits for as many as four million poor, single adults over the next few years, experts say.

But Mr. Trump’s effort faces an uncertain future. The centerpiece of the plan, a sweeping executive order mandating that federal agencies review safety net programs with an eye toward cutting their rolls, has been delayed indefinitely, according to three senior administration officials.

Disagreement among congressional Republicans over how to proceed, Mr. Trump’s own ambivalence — and the absence of any proof that the approach will achieve its intended goal of reducing dependency on federal programs — have resulted in a scattershot process that lacks the coherence and force of previous efforts at overhaul.

“This isn’t the 1990s, when you had a broad national consensus for ending welfare as we know it,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, which has worked closely with the administration on several domestic policy initiatives.

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