The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated this year that three-quarters of food stamp recipients work within a year of participating in the program. That report suggests that Americans often use assistance programs as bridges to a new job, after they have lost previous employment.
The administration’s numbers may be particularly exaggerated for Medicaid. Under the Affordable Care Act, many states expanded their Medicaid program in 2014 to include more childless adults whose incomes bring them close to the poverty line. But the report examines adults who were enrolled in Medicaid in 2013, before the expansion, when most adults who were signed up were either pregnant women, the parents of young children or adults with extremely low incomes.
According to the council, about 53 percent of adult, non-disabled Medicaid beneficiaries worked less than 20 hours a week. Using a different set of government data from 2017, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 62 percent of such people had full- or part-time jobs. Another 18 percent either lived in a household with another working adult. Council officials say the data set they drew upon, while older, is a better measure than the one Kaiser used.
Critics say the administration’s effort seeks to demonize the poor, particularly low-income minorities, and said the report is another weapon in the White House’s attempt to hurt the most vulnerable.
“It’s all part of a carefully calculated strategy to reinforce myths about the people these programs help,” said Rebecca Vallas, the vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, and “to smear these programs with a dog-whistle of welfare, in order to make them easier to cut.”
The Trump administration has been pushing to expand work requirements into state Medicaid programs, by encouraging states to apply for rule waivers to pursue work requirement pilot programs. So far, three state plans have been approved, and seven more are in the pipeline.
A federal judge in Washington overturned the waiver granted to Kentucky, the first state to have its work requirement approved. The judge found that the administration’s approval had been “arbitrary and capricious,” and that it had not demonstrated that a work requirement was consistent with the purpose of the Medicaid program, to “furnish medical assistance.”